Thousands of bats are overstaying their welcome in Orange due to an apparent food crisis on the coast.
The flying foxes are hanging around in Orange, and other inland regional cities, when normally they would have returned to food supplies on the coast.
They are creating an unpleasant stench in Cook Park, damaging trees and fouling it with droppings and urine.
They are also damaging fruit with orchardists in the middle of the apple harvest.
Storm Stanford, a bat expert with WIRES [NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service], said the situation was the worst since 2010 when a major food shortage on the coast kept the bats in Orange.
Ms Stanford said the bats normally went to south-east Queensland in April.
“The fact that they are still in the Central West is not a good indicator,” she said.
She said she was not aware of a food shortage on the coast however she said it appeared the bats did know.
“It appears the food isn’t there and they are aware of it,” she said. “We don’t know how they know about it.”
Ms Stanford said in 2010 the food shortage led to a large number of bats dying of starvation however they eventually left Orange before the winter cold.
Ms Stanford said the bats were hanging around inland areas including Orange, Bathurst, Mudgee, Crookwell, Yass and Mittagong.
“They are in very unusual places at the moment,” she said.
“I feel for the people of Orange at the moment, but they are not alone.”
She said the unusually warm weather would also be affecting the bats’ behaviour.
Orange district orchardists Tim and Jayne West said the bats had been attacking fruit on their properties.
Mrs West said the bats were frequent visitors.
“[It’s been] every night for about two weeks,” she said.
“We’ve put up flashing lights in the orchard.”
Mr West said they needed to remove netting a few days before picking to enable apples to develop colour and that was when the bats struck.
He said the bats were not as numerous as in 2010 but still caused problems.
The bats were initially spotted in Ploughmans Lane this year before they roosted in Cook Park.
Orange Mayor Reg Kidd said council had a flying fox management plan and staff were monitoring them.
“We monitor fairly closely any damage to the trees,” he said.
Bathurst council has been awarded $38,559 in government grants to clean up flying fox mess and create a managment plan however Cr Kidd said removing bats was a huge problem.
“People are saying get rid of them, please let us know how to do it,” he said.
“It took years and years to do it in the Botanic Gardens in Sydney and it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
WIRES warns people not to touch or handle bats as they risked being bitten or scratched which could lead to infection.
Check out the NSW Health rabies and Australian bat lyssavirus infection information here.