Nature conservation

Native animals

Creation of buffers (Level 2) actions

This fact sheet should be read in conjunction with the Flying-fox Camp Management Policy 2015.

The Flying-fox Camp Management Policy outlines a hierarchy of camp management actions based on the principle of using the lowest form of intervention required.

This approach involves:

  • routine camp management actions (Level 1)
  • creation of buffers (Level 2)
  • camp disturbance or dispersal (Level 3).

This fact sheet provides more detail on Level 2 management actions.

Note that Level 2 management actions should be developed as part of a camp management plan (see the camp management plan template (PDF 355KB)), and a licence may be required (see approvals and licences).

In line with the hierarchy of actions outlined above, Level 2 management actions should not be undertaken until Level 1 management actions (routine camp management) are complete, and have failed to adequately mitigate the impacts of flying-foxes on local communities.

Much of the information in this fact sheet is taken directly from Management and restoration of flying-fox camps. SEQ Catchments 2012 (PDF 3.4MB).

What are Level 2 management actions?

Level 2 management actions involve the active management of vegetation to create buffers around camps to provide a physical separation between humans and flying-foxes. A physical separation between humans and flying-foxes is a good way to reduce conflict with the surrounding area, and can also mitigate noise and smell.

The creation of buffers should be clearly identified as Level 2 management actions in the camp management plan. Level 2 management actions include:

  • trimming or clearing vegetation at the camp boundary to create a buffer between the flying-fox camp and areas of human settlement. The removal of a whole tree that poses a genuine health and safety risk as determined by a qualified arborist may constitute a Level 1 management action.
  • revegetating areas between the flying-fox camp and areas of human settlement with plants that are unsuitable as roost habitat.
  • extending roosting habitat through revegetation away from areas of human settlement. If flying-foxes are not using the area to be revegetated this could be considered a Level 1 management action.
  • disturbing animals at the boundary of the camp to encourage roosting in adjacent vegetation.

Level 2 management actions should not be carried out with the aim of killing, harming or dispersing/disturbing flying-foxes.

What should I consider before implementing Level 2 management actions?

Community engagement

Community engagement will be an important part of any camp management plan. The local community should be engaged before undertaking any camp management actions. See the Working with Communities fact sheet.

Hierarchy of management actions

Consideration should be given to how any management actions proposed for a flying-fox camp conform to the hierarchy of actions in the camp management policy.

For example, Level 2 management actions may not be necessary if routine camp management (Level 1) actions can effectively mitigate the issue.

Type of buffer

Buffers may be established by trimming vegetation, removing a corridor of vegetation along the boundary of a camp, or revegetating the area between the camp and nearby human settlements.

For example, vegetation trimming can be used to create a small buffer between humans or conflict areas and the flying-fox camp. This can be used to establish good will and build relationships and tolerance with neighbours.

Vegetation removal can be used to create a substantial buffer between humans or conflict areas and the flying-fox camp. This should only be considered in large remnants or at sites with extreme and ongoing conflict and the consequences of doing nothing could have a negative impact on the animals. Buffers of less than 50 metres may be ineffective in mitigating the smell and noise from a flying-fox camp.

Revegetation with trees unsuitable as roost habitat can create a visual buffer in conflict areas, making areas of the colony inaccessible to humans or extending the camp vegetation away from residents. This is a longer-term management tool as it takes time for the vegetation to grow.

Disturbance of flying-foxes at the boundary of a camp is unlikely to result in a long-term solution. Without accompanying structural changes to the vegetation in the area of disturbance, flying-foxes are likely to return to the site once the disturbance has ceased. Furthermore, disturbance may lead to dispersal, which is a Level 3 management action requiring a different set of considerations.

Consider the installation of noise attenuation fencing in areas where the roost is particularly close to residents. Although expensive to install, this option would negate the need for habitat modification, maintaining the ecological values of the site, and is likely to be more cost effective than ongoing dispersal.

Planning to prevent conflict

If possible, land-use planning instruments should be used to provide sufficient space between established camp sites and residential, commercial and industrial neighbours. Camp site boundaries and buffers should take into consideration the variability of use of a camp site by flying-foxes within and across years. Particularly, buffers need to cater for large, seasonal influxes of flying-foxes, as these often trigger greater community concern.

Consider the long-term implications of revegetation as it takes some time for trees to grow and be utilised by flying-foxes.

Timing

Consider the timing of management actions. See below: When can I implement Level 2 management actions?

Mitigating flying-fox impacts offsite

The impacts of flying-foxes on nearby residents and facilities can often be mitigated by making changes to activities and buildings surrounding the flying-fox camp (offsite):

  • Dense planting to create screens at residential boundaries can assist reducing smell, noise and general amenity impacts (preferably native species appropriate to the region that will not grow high enough to be colonised by flying-foxes).
  • Acoustic insulation such as double-glazed windows can address noise issues.
  • Installation of air-conditioners can help when strong odours prevent windows and doors from being left open.
  • Clothes dryers can be used when outdoor clothes lines may be subject to flying-fox droppings.

Other measures include shade cloths for yards, covers for cars, and subsidies for power bills and car washing.

Land managers should consider the relative costs and benefits of managing the flying-fox camp versus providing assistance or financial subsidies for offsite mitigation. Both approaches may be required in some circumstances.

Relevant approvals

Permits and/or approvals from Commonwealth, state and local governments may still be required. See Approvals and Licences section below.

How do I implement Level 2 management actions?

As part of the development of a camp management plan (see the camp management plan template (PDF 355KB)), the following steps should be considered.

Mapping and site assessment

Office of Environment and Heritage recommends mapping the camp area before clearing or trimming trees to create a buffer. Where possible, land managers should use cadastral boundaries and overlay with satellite imagery. The maps should identify the approximate total area of the camp, the approximate area occupied by flying-foxes including historical occupation, the location and size of the area that would need to be cleared or trimmed to create a suitable buffer, and whether there is a suitably sized replacement area adjacent to the camp that is available for the displaced flying-foxes.

Office of Environment and Heritage recommends a site visit before commencing any management actions to ground truth the mapping and to have a suitably qualified/skilled person conduct an assessment of the camp. This should include a count of each flying-fox species present, the total number of flying-foxes, the number of pregnant females, the number of dependent young, the type of vegetation present, which trees are used as roosts, and whether there are other threatened species or ecological communities/populations present.

Prior to implementation

Before starting Level 2 management actions, conduct a health and safety risk assessment to determine whether pre-exposure vaccinations are required, the appropriate levels of personal protective equipment required, and to identify protocols to minimise risks to both the public and flying-foxes. Training may be required for some staff, such as those who will be handling injured, sick or dead flying-foxes.

Workers should be made aware of the potential health risks associated with working with flying-foxes. Refer to Flying-foxes and Human Health fact sheet.

Implementation

Any vegetation works and maintenance should be undertaken in such a way that minimises disturbance to the colony. Office of Environment and Heritage recommends that Level 2 management actions are undertaken at night when flying-foxes are away foraging, or when the camp is seasonally empty, but recognise that temporary disturbance may be unavoidable in some circumstances.

Activities should be closely monitored by a person with suitable experience in flying-fox behaviour.

Due regard should be given to the welfare of animals present, following the requirements of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979.

Where Level 2 management actions are required to be undertaken during the day time, works must immediately cease and Office of Environment and Heritage be immediately notified if 30 per cent or more of the adult flying-foxes leave the roost for five minutes or more, or if the death of a flying-fox occurs as a result of the work.

To reduce the possibility of disturbing the colony and dispersing bats to less desirable locations, where possible any major works near the camp site involving machinery or construction should be implemented outside flying-fox reproductive periods. Ideally, works should be conducted when flying-foxes are absent.

When flying-foxes are present, consider commencing works at the end of the site furthest from the flying-foxes and working slowly towards the roost, or alternatively, leaving the area nearest the flying-foxes until early evening.

Avoid using two-stroke engines such as chainsaws, whipper snippers and lawn mowers as these are highly disruptive to roosting flying-foxes. If chainsaws are needed, consider starting the chainsaw away from the roost and letting it run for a short time to allow flying-foxes to adjust, then move closer to flying-foxes and repeat the procedure.

The use of loud machinery or equipment that produces sudden impacts or sudden loud sounds should be minimised.

Avoid driving or parking vehicles in or near flying-fox camps. Where possible, park vehicles and equipment away from direct line of sight of roosting flying-foxes.

Avoid the use of large work crews. Consider engaging a two-person crew, with a single person undertaking Level 2 management actions, and a second person as a 'spotter' to observe the activity of the flying-foxes for the purposes of ceasing work at the first sign of flying-fox disturbance.

Vegetation trimming

Avoid trimming of shrubs and trees when flying-foxes are present, especially during flying-fox reproductive periods. Ideally, trimming should occur at night when flying-foxes are foraging or when the camp is seasonally empty. Vegetation should be trimmed by a qualified arborist so trees remain viable and do not become a safety issue in the future.

Vegetation removal

The size of vegetation patch should be considered before vegetation is removed. Avoid removing vegetation from small patches as this is unlikely to create an effective buffer. Removal should only be considered in large remnants or at sites with extreme and ongoing conflict where the consequences of doing nothing could have a negative impact on the animals.

Avoid incremental and ongoing removal of vegetation for the creation of buffers, and aim for no net loss of vegetation used by flying-foxes.

Avoid vegetation removal especially where there may be impacts on other threatened species or ecological communities.

Revegetation

Avoid planting with plants that will require regular maintenance. Consider replacing areas that require regular mowing with low shrubs (less than three metres high), preferably in a mulched bed, thus reducing the need for regular disturbance from maintenance works.

Improve the core area or extend the remnant with roost trees to bring animals back to preferred areas and prevent animals spilling over into neighbouring properties.

In some cases suitable roost tree species may be planted to extend the camp away from contentious areas. When planning to do so, proper timelines should be established for replanting as many trees take more than 5 years to grow to sufficient height.

Consider edge planting with low-growing thorny and spiky plants (less than three metres high) to prevent people from entering the camp, disturbing the colony or interfering with regeneration.

Disturbance prior to vegetation removal

Where flying-foxes are actively roosting in vegetation that is flagged for trimming or removal, local disturbance may be required to deter flying-foxes from roosting in the affected trees before work commences.

Expert assessment may be required to determine whether such action will result in a full dispersal from the site. Seek advice from Office of Environment and Heritage, and refer to the Level 3 management actions fact sheet for more information.

Where noise attenuation fencing is proposed, a plan to mitigate impacts on the flying-fox camp should be developed and submitted to Office of Environment and Heritage, given the possibility of dispersal due to construction works.

Monitoring, evaluation and reporting

Monitoring is essential to assess the effectiveness of actions trialled and what has and what hasn't worked when managing flying-fox camps (see Monitoring, evaluation and reporting fact sheet). This will aid the development of more effective management actions in the future. Monitoring conditions will often be stipulated in licence conditions, and may include:

  • Mapping the flying-fox camp including key features and how they are used by flying-foxes. To understand the impacts of management actions, this should be done before, during and after the actions are implemented.
  • Measuring area of roost vegetation removed through clearing, and area of additional habitat identified or revegetated.
  • Conducting detailed flying-fox counts including species present, numbers, condition of animals and presence of pregnant females or females with young. Again, this should be done before, during and after the actions are implemented. Surveys should be conducted one month, six months and 12 months after the management actions are complete to understand the long-term impact of the management actions.
  • Recording details of flying-fox behaviour during management activities, including signs of visible distress, injury or death.
  • Surveying affected neighbours and the local community before and after management actions to monitor their response to the outcomes of the management actions as an integral part of the community engagement strategy.

Land managers should consider keeping detailed records of management activities and their outcomes for contribution to a national flying-fox network, assisting other land managers dealing with similar issues.

A datasheet (DOC 861KB) is available for monitoring Level 2 management actions. Information should be forwarded to Office of Environment and Heritage, and used by the land manager to inform future management decisions.

When can I implement Level 2 management actions?

Generally, Level 2 actions are best scheduled outside critical reproductive periods from the time when the resident female flying-foxes are heavily pregnant until the young can fly independently (generally from August to May for Grey-headed and Black Flying-foxes and April to December for Little Red Flying-foxes).

The timing of the reproductive cycle varies between species, between years and between sites. Expert assessment may be required on a site-by-site basis to ensure Level 2 management actions are timed appropriately.

Consider scheduling activity for when the roost is unoccupied, i.e. when the bats have left the site at dusk for nightly foraging activities, or for non-permanent roosts, when the roost is seasonally unoccupied.

For sites containing Grey-headed and/or Black Flying-foxes:

JanFebMarAprMayJuneJulyAugSepOctNovDec
Level 1, 2 and 3 management actions not recommended Level 1, 2 and 3 management actions may be allowed Level 1, 2 and 3 management actions not recommended

Level 2 actions should not be undertaken when temperatures are greater than 35°C during the day. See the fact sheet on managing heat stress events for more information.

Do I require approvals or licences for Level 2 management actions?

Clearing and trimming trees at the camp boundary and disturbing animals at the boundary to encourage them to move away from contentious areas can disturb animals in the whole roost area and can result in a dispersal of animals. As a consequence, Office of Environment and Heritage generally requires approvals to be sought for Level 2 management actions.

Office of Environment and Heritage will streamline licensing of Level 2 camp management actions when a camp management plan is prepared in accordance with the template available.

Where licences are approved, they may be issued for up to five years. This will avoid land managers having to repeatedly seek approval from the State Government for ongoing camp management actions.

To obtain approval, land managers will submit their completed camp management plan to Office of Environment and Heritage. Office of Environment and Heritage will then guide the applicant through the necessary process for licensing. These statutory processes are set out in the 2015 Flying-fox Camp Management Policy.

Level 2 management actions can be licensed by Office of Environment and Heritage in a variety of ways and land managers are advised to take note of the following:

Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995

  • If the camp contains Grey-headed Flying-foxes and Level 2 management actions are proposed in a camp management plan, clearing or trimming of trees may require a Section 91 Licence or Section 95 certificate under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act) because the Grey-headed Flying-fox is threatened, and many camps occur within Threatened Ecological Communities or contain other threatened species, or the vegetation is habitat for other threatened species.
  • Where Level 2 actions are proposed in a camp management plan, a licensing decision will be made within forty working days of application.
  • See more information on licences.

National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974

  • In some cases a camp may only include Little Red Flying-foxes. Where this is the case a licence under section 120 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 may apply.
  • Where Black Flying-foxes are found, they usually co-occur with Grey-headed Flying-foxes which are covered under the TSC Act.
  • See further information on wildlife licences under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979

  • A licence or approval to alter the structure of flying-fox roost habitat does not remove the need to abide by the requirements of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979.
  • See further information on the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979.

Approval under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979

  • Actions under a management plan may also require approval under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 if they constitute 'development' for the purposes of that Act. Further information on administration and operation of that Act is available from the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.

Approval under Australian Government legislation

  • Camp management actions undertaken in or near camps of Grey-headed Flying-foxes may also require approval under Australian Government legislation.
  • The Australian Government provides guidance on whether management actions at a flying-fox camp are 'controlled actions' under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
  • The NSW Government is continuing to work closely with the Australian Government to develop a one-stop shop for environmental approvals. See further information on the Commonwealth approval regime.

Are you aware of upcoming changes to wildlife licensing?


The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 is scheduled to commence from 25 August 2017.

Existing wildlife licence classes, conditions and fees will remain in place after the Act begins.

Proposed changes to wildlife licensing under the new Act will be exhibited for public comment in the second half of 2017. These changes are expected to be taken up during 2018.

Learn more about the wildlife licensing reforms.

Seek assistance from Office of Environment and Heritage if required

Office of Environment and Heritage supports local government, public authority land managers and individual land holders to select the appropriate level of intervention for their situation. As outlined in Section 3 of the Camp Management Policy, activities may be low impact such as trimming vegetation in the camp, more active in terms of modifying vegetation and habitat, or targeted at disturbing or dispersing populations in certain circumstances.

When required, Office of Environment and Heritage will assign a support officer to provide advice on statutory requirements and assist land managers or local governments in developing flying-fox camp management plans and engaging with the community.

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Page last updated: 09 August 2017