BAT experts have urged the Bendigo community to support the flying fox population rather than fear it during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The colony at Bendigo's Rosalind Park was as large as 20,000 bats in October last year, but Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning records show there are only about 1060 bats left at the park.
After months of heat stroke conditions, a DELWP spokesperson said the cooler weather would be beneficial for the bats.
"We have no current concerns for the welfare of the grey-headed flying foxes in Rosalind Park," the spokesperson said.
But flying fox expert and Friends of Bats and Bushcare group president Lawrence Pope said the species was still in dire straits.
"The Bendigo colony will be receiving flying foxes from other parts of western Victoria," he said. "Bats move east as it gets colder and they basically get to the nearest camp.
"The problem is that when the population hits eastern Victoria and NSW this year, many thousands will starve to death because the forests have been destroyed in the bushfires.
"All of their usual food resources have been massively reduced. There is nothing flowering for them to eat so they will slowly lose strength and perish."
Mr Pope said Australia's flying fox population had declined by about 95 per cent in the past 100 years. He said the Bendigo community could do small things to help the bats.
"One thing we're asking for people to do for the next couple of years is remove fruit tree netting," Mr Pope said.
"If people want to keep some fruit for themselves, use washing bags zipped over the lower hanging fruit. It's cheap, tough, and wildlife safe.
"Leave the higher fruit for wildlife. That would be a huge help not only for the flying foxes but other animals as well."
Mr Pope said while the COVID-19 pandemic had increased negative perceptions around bats, the public should not be concerned.
"Wildlife Australia has been very clear there is no COVID-19 in Australian wildlife," he said. "That includes bats.
"If any exotic diseases or viruses that can be transmitted to humans arise in the Australian bat population, then the hundreds of us who care for and handle bats every day will get it first. We are all in robust health."
Mr Pope said the only virus Australians could contract from flying fox bites was the rare Lyssavirus.
He said there have only been three deaths from Lyssavirus in the past ten years, with none of those deaths in Victoria.
There was also an effective post-exposure vaccine available to those who are bitten, he said.
"You have to try really hard to be at risk," Mr Pope said. "The rule we always promulgate with the public around bats and other wildlife is no touch, no risk.
"You can go to a flying fox colony and enjoy seeing these ancient Australians who spend their entire lives building forests.
"The most dangerous thing would be driving your car there."
DELWP has not received any complaints from Bendigo residents about the bat population.
Mr Pope said the Bendigo community had always been supportive.
"We're very proud of Bendigo," he said. "We know what a great job the local government is doing to protect the bat population."
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