Therese Schier took this photo of bats dead on the ground in Casino yesterday.
Therese Schier took this photo of bats dead on the ground in Casino yesterday.

Community warned to avoid touching flying foxes

MONDAY 3.45pm: THE Northern NSW Local Health District has warned North Coast residents to avoid handling or touching dead flying foxes or microbats, with an increase in the numbers of dead flying foxes being found in or around trees following the recent extreme heat.

The heat wave has affected local wildlife, particularly fruit bats and flying foxes.

Members of the community should not handle dead flying foxes or microbats unless they have been trained, vaccinated against rabies and use the proper protective equipment.
If you find a dead, injured or distressed flying fox, do not attempt to handle it yourself.

Call your local wildlife rescue service WIRES on 1300 094 737, or WIRES Northern Rivers on 6628 1898 (Ballina to Kyogle area) or Tweed Valley Wildlife Carers on 02 6672 4789.

If you are bitten or scratched by a flying fox, the wound should immediately be washed gently but thoroughly with soap and water, an antiseptic such as povidone-iodine applied, and a doctor consulted as soon as possible to assess the need for further treatment.

For more information regarding safely handling flying foxes, visit the NSW Health website


MONDAY 11.45am: RICHMOND Valley Council has said that more than 2000 flying foxes have died from the heatwave which hit the area over the weekend.

The 46-degree temperature in Casino yesterday played havoc with the local flying-fox camp with thousands of dead bats picked up by Richmond Valley Council officers in McAuliffe Park, in the Hickey and Barker streets area, as well as in Queen Elizabeth Park, along the riverbank, and on the roadway, a spokesperson from council said. 

WIRES volunteers are also on site, attempting to deal with the young flying foxes in the first instance.

Council's General Manager Vaughan Macdonald said the extreme heat was a tragedy for the bats.

Mr Macdonald said it was likely Council crews would continue the collection of dead bats over the coming week, which may extend into private property.

He said there were still large numbers dead in trees, and along the riverbank, out of the reach of Council crews.

"Whatever anyone's opinion is either side of the bat debate, no one wishes this sort of tragedy on the bats," Mr Macdonald said.

"It just goes to show the extent and intensity of the extreme heat we experienced yesterday. The bats couldn't deal with the heat."

Mr Macdonald said while Council officers were acting as quickly as possible to remove the dead bats, residents were advised to stay clear until all dead bats were taken away.

He said Council crews were having difficulty accessing some areas of the riverbank and unfortunately this meant there may be an unpleasant odour for a while.

He said Council's environmental health officers would continue to monitor the site.

"Some areas along the riverbank are inaccessible and the stench from the rotting carcasses will be quite unbearable for some time yet," Mr Macdonald said.

Mr Macdonald said people should avoid the area and not try to help living bats themselves as they could bite and scratch and some carry the lyssavirus.

He said parents and teachers needed to be especially vigilant to ensure children remained safe.

"Young children could be attracted to the bats on the ground but there could be serious health risks if they pick them up," Mr Macdonald said.


UPDATE 10am: WIRES Northern Rivers Bat Coordinator Lib Ruytenberg has confirmed that it's possible "several thousand" bats have died in Casino during the current heatwave.

In addition, Ms Ruytenberg said several hundred have also died in Kyogle.

She also confirmed that because of the prolonged heat, more deaths are most likely yet to come.

"When you've got repeated days in a row of high heat it creates a compounding effect in the bats," she said.

Wildlife rescue volunteers have spent the weekend feverishly trying to save as many bats as possible, hydrating the foliage at the bat colonies to create moisture, and also directly working to hydrate bats that had dropped to the ground but were still alive by spraying them with water and feeding them hydration fluids.

While the loss of so many bats was devastating for the local colonies, Ms Ruytenberg said, the volunteers counted the blessings that they could.

During the weekend, the volunteers released many bats after hydrating them back to stable condition.

"We had dozens of volunteers working yesterday which was a tall order in that heat," she said.

In another blessing, the Lismore bat colony, which was monitored constantly over the weekend by volunteers, was not affected, Ms Ruytenberg confirmed.

She handed out some advice to the public on what they should do if they come across a sick or dead bat.

"If people find a dead bat in their backyard they shouldn't touch it but they should contact council," she said.

If someone finds a live bat, they should contact WIRES Northern Rivers. 

Richmond Valley Council media spokeswoman, Sharon Davidson, confirmed that crews from council were out over the weekend collecting the corpses of the bats, and would continue that work today.

Ms Davidson said the deaths were "tragic" and thanked the wildlife volunteers for the "terrific job" they had been doing.


MONDAY 8.40am: BATS have been dying in large numbers due to the excessive heat over the weekend, it has been reported.

Multiple social media posts show photos of dead bats littering the ground at Casino, where temperatures reach 45 degrees Celsius yesterday.

Back in November 2014, thousands of bats died due to the heat.

In 2014, between 3000-5000 bats were killed in the heatwave.

The number of bats killed this time around has not been confirmed as yet.

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