Bat invasion threat to crops and health

Updated November 6 2012 - 4:31pm, first published March 15 2010 - 12:58am
LUXURIOUS ACCOMMODATION: Hundreds of bats have made their daytime home at the fernery in Rosalind Park.

A COLONY of up to 400 fruit bats has invaded Bendigo, posing a health risk to residents and a threat to crops.The rare visitors were first seen by Bendigo field naturalist John Lindner but have since been seen all over town.Boronia Crescent resident Jim Bowman said he had seen about 30 of the bats at night for the past few nights but warned people not to get too close because of the Australian bat lyssavirus, a disease closely related to rabies.“There have been reports in the north that bats have hit powerlines and people have gone to pick them up and been bitten and died,” he said.“People might think they’re cute and cuddly because they’re like possums, but they can bite.”Mr Bowman said the bats had been seen flying around his house and towards Kennington Reservoir.Local spotter Maurie Lewis said the colony was an unusual find in Bendigo, but he suspected the visitors were only temporary and were surviving on nectar in the local grey box trees.“With global warming the habitat here is changing a bit.“It’s a bit warmer and more humid here at the moment, but when it cools down they will probably head north again.“I’d say they are temporary visitors.”The bats are endangered according to Mr Lewis who said they were looked at as pests.“They’ve been persecuted by everybody over the years,” he said. “They eat the fruit so it’s hard for the farmers because it’s their livelihood - there’s a lot of unseen persecution.“But you can’t blame the farmers, they’ve got to grow the crops to make a living.”Mr Lewis estimated that 250 of the bats, which are also known as grey-headed flying foxes, were living in the area but John Burtonclay said there could be up to 400.The bats, which have a one-metre wingspan and a cat-sized body, are the same as the bats wreaking havoc in some of Melbourne’s parks and gardens.Mr Burtonclay said he hoped the bats in Rosalind Park would be left alone for people to enjoy.

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