Hastings residents warned not to handle flying foxes

 Home base: Kooloonbung Creek Nature Reserve is home to the largest flying fox population in the local government area. Photo: Matt Attard
Home base: Kooloonbung Creek Nature Reserve is home to the largest flying fox population in the local government area. Photo: Matt Attard

Hastings residents are being reminded to avoid handling or touching injured or dead flying foxes or microbats.

In the past month, 10 people have been bitten or scratched after handling flying foxes or microbats across the Mid North Coast and Northern NSW Local Health Districts.

Kooloonbung Reserve and Wrights Creek Bridge areas in Port Macquarie are heavily populated by the grey-headed flying fox.

The warning comes as wildlife rescue service FAWNA (For Australian Wildlife Needing Aid) reports an increase in calls about dead and starving flying foxes in the region.

If you find an injured or distressed flying fox or bat do not attempt to handle it yourself, call your local wildlife rescue service.

Greg Bell

North Coast Public Health Unit Assistant Director Greg Bell said members of the community should not handle flying foxes or microbats unless they have been trained, vaccinated against rabies and use the proper protective equipment.

"If you find an injured or distressed flying fox or bat do not attempt to handle it yourself, call your local wildlife rescue service," Mr Bell said.

"Australian bat lyssavirus while very rare, is a serious infection similar to rabies, that has been found in flying foxes and microbats, including on the North Coast.

"If you are bitten or scratched by a flying fox or bat, immediately wash the wound gently but thoroughly with soap and water, apply an antiseptic such as povidone-iodine and consult a doctor as soon as possible to assess the need for further treatment."

 Two flying foxes above Wrights Creek Bridge. Photo: Matt Attard

Two flying foxes above Wrights Creek Bridge. Photo: Matt Attard

NSW Health provides post-exposure rabies vaccinations for people in NSW who have been bitten or scratched by bats.

This is in addition to routine management of the wound,with proper cleaning reducing the risk of infection.

"In the event of an extreme heat stress or starvation event affecting bat populations, people should follow the directions given by wildlife rescue coordinators," Mr Bell said.

This year so many females are not bearing pups indicating early abortions most likely due to insufficient nutrition to carry these babes to term.

Meredith Ryan

FAWNA has reported its first rescue responders are receiving more and more calls daily to dead and starving flying-foxes.

The wildlife service say they are the victims of the "prolonged and record-breaking drought conditions to hit the Mid-North Coast".

"Usually at this time of year our volunteer FAWNA rescuer/carers are preparing for the initial batch of orphans to come in during the first week in October, but this year so many females are not bearing pups indicating early abortions most likely due to insufficient nutrition to carry these babes to term," said president Meredith Ryan.

"Instead our responders have the distressing task of tending to dead and dying adults."

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