Flying Foxes
  • Last updated:
  • 20 Oct 2016

Four species of flying fox are native to mainland Australia. They are found mostly in northern and eastern temperate and sub-tropical coastal areas. Three of these - the little red flying fox, the black flying fox and the grey-headed flying fox - are found on the Sunshine Coast. The Grey-headed flying fox is endemic to Australia and is currently listed federally as vulnerable to extinction.

Flying foxes scatter pollen and seeds during their night time feeding trips. They help with the reproductive processes of forest and woodlands. They can move between habitat types and transport genetic material across landscapes. Their role as long-distance pollinators is unequalled.

The loss of native forests for agriculture and urban development has greatly reduced food sources for flying foxes. A 1993 study showed a loss of approximately two-thirds of south east Queensland’s native vegetation (Catterall & Kingston). The loss included an almost 90% reduction of Melaleuca quinquinervia forests, which are a chief source of winter food for nectar-feeding flying foxes.

This reduction in habitat has forced flying foxes to find other habitats, including patches of bushland in urban areas. This has led to increased contact and conflict with humans.

Flying foxes play an essential role in maintaining the health and variety of forests on the Sunshine Coast.

However, living nearby to these native animals can be challenging.

Tips for living with flying foxes

The Queensland Government has provided a range of suggestions to help residents living nearby to flying foxes. To see these suggestions visit the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

Frequently asked questions

Flying foxes are nocturnal animals that fly out from their roost sites at sunset and move around the region at night searching for food. They return to a central roost just before sunrise and rest there throughout the day. So if you see or hear flying foxes in trees near your home at night, it's more than likely they’re only there temporarily to feed.

No. There have been massive declines in flying fox populations since European colonisation. This is due to land clearing and large-scale culling. Two flying fox species - the Grey-headed and Spectacled flying-foxes - are listed as vulnerable under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

There is a common perception that flying fox numbers are increasing. The reality is that urban expansion is encroaching on areas of flying fox habitat so more roost sites are appearing in urban areas.

Council monitors seven urban roost sites. Results are published on this webpage monthly.

Yes, council’s Regional Flying Fox Management Plan is available on this website. The plan is approved by the state government as a regional flying fox management plan, and the Australian Government as a conservation agreement for Grey-headed flying foxes.

Call RSPCA on 1300 ANIMAL (264 625)

Flying fox management on the Coast

There are more than 22 permanent and temporary flying fox camps on the Sunshine Coast. Flying foxes may occupy a camp for months or years.

Council has developed a Regional Flying Fox Management Plan[1388KB] that has been endorsed by the state government, and is approved by the federal government as a conservation agreement. The management plan provides a range of clear management options to assist council in decision-making on how to best manage flying foxes within the region.

Flying fox occupation of roost sites varies between species. Little Red flying foxes move seasonally into areas for short periods of time, whereas Grey-headed and Black flying foxes can occupy roosts for longer periods of time. All flying fox species move in response to changes in surrounding land use, roost habitat quality, and food availability.

Council is taking action on council-controlled land to better manage flying foxes and their co-existence with residents in the region.

Current actions

Cassia Wildlife Corridor (Coolum Beach) – Two non-lethal dispersals were undertaken in May and July of 2014 using noise, smoke and lighting each day as the flying-foxes return to camp at sunrise. This action also included deterrence activity at the nearby Elizabeth St drain bushland area adjacent to Tradewinds Avenue, aimed to prevent a new roost establishing nearby. This was successful at the time of the dispersal action for Cassia however the flying foxes have now returned a establish a roosting site at the Elizabeth St drain site on Tradewinds Ave.

Elizabeth Street Drain (Coolum Beach) - Two non-lethal dispersals were undertaken in May and July of 2015. Flying-foxes returned to the site after both attempts. Limited vegetation management was undertaken in May 2015 in an attempt to prevent flying foxes from spilling over into adjoining private properties. An Options Paper was commissioned to assess further management actions and is available on this website. A flying for exclusion buffer including canopy mounted sprinklers was created from May to August 2016 and is providing a buffer of 10-30m between adjacent residents and flying foxes. A community planting day was held in September 2016 and 200 non-attractant flying fox plants were planted into sections of the buffer. The plantings will reduce the weed re-growth in cleared areas, provide an attractive native plant screen for adjacent residents and reduce the erosion of the drainage banks.

Aragorn Bushland Reserve/Stella Maris School (Maroochydore) – Vegetation management was completed in June 2014 to establish a flying fox exclusion buffer while flying-foxes were seasonally absent from the site. A non-lethal dispersal using smoke, noise and lighting was undertaken in April 2016. Dispersal actions moved the flying foxes to a splinter camp at Eudlo Creek Conservation Area and the Mooloolah River. The animals naturally abandoned the Eudlo Creek site after two weeks and the Mooloolah River site was abandoned in September 2016. Flying foxes have not returned to Aragorn Bushland Reserve (based on monitoring data from 22 October 2016).

Dunning Street (Palmwoods) – Based on the recommendations of the site specific Options Paper, council completed weed removal within the roost site during a seasonable in absence in 2014. The flying-foxes have not returned to Dunning Street.

Emerald Woods (Mooloolaba) – Council completed Stage 1 of works recommended in the site specific Options Paper, a 10 metre buffer from nearby residential properties in 2014. A 30 metre flying fox exclusion buffer including canopy mounted sprinklers was created behind the primary impacted property in 2015. Canopy mounted sprinklers have been successful at maintaining the buffer distance between residents and flying foxes at this location.

Vidler Court (Landsborough) – Council has completed the works recommended in the site specific options paper by the removal of roosting trees overhanging nearby properties (southern boundary) and establishment of a buffer on the northern boundary, retaining the visual screening for the roost.

Council has commissioned options papers for several roosts within the region. The options papers will discuss mitigation actions to reduce the noise and smell impacts to the nearby community.

Monitoring results for occupied roosts

Flying fox protection

All flying fox species are protected in Queensland under the Nature Conservation Act 1994

The Grey-headed flying fox is also nationally protected under the Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. For more information visit the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

The Federal Government is reviewing the status of the Grey-headed flying fox and the CSIRO is conducting the National Flying Fox Monitoring Program. Survey results for camps within the Sunshine Coast can be viewed through the interactive map viewer on the Department of Environment website.

The protected Grey-headed flying fox has been identified at all camps within the Sunshine Coast region. Any proposed management action at roosts where Grey-headed flying foxes are present requires referral to the Commonwealth Government.

Here is an example of a large scale dispersal involving Grey-headed flying foxes at the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust in Sydney.

Community health concerns

Flying foxes can carry Hendra Virus and Australian Bat Lyssavirus. However, contracting a virus from a flying fox is extremely unlikely. You can view up-to-date advice about human and livestock health on the Queensland Health and Biosecurity Queensland websites.

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