Flying-foxes are nomadic mammals that travel up and down the east coast of Australia feeding on native blossoms and fruits, spreading seeds and pollinating native plants.
Flying-foxes roost in trees during the day, and establish permanent and semi-permanent ‘camps’ near food sources and for birthing. Camp-sites where young are born can become very important to flying-foxes – some camp-sites in NSW have recorded use for over a century.
Flying-foxes are intelligent mammals, with excellent night vision and an acute sense of smell that helps them find nectar and navigate their way along the Australian coastline. Their legs have small muscles, which make them light enough to fly, but this means they are not strong enough to stand upright.
Social and at times very noisy, flying-foxes have over 30 distinct calls they use to defend their territory, find their young and attract mating partners.
It takes three years for a female flying-fox to become sexually mature, after which she will give birth to only one pup per year. Pups are dependent for at least six months. This slow reproductive rate means flying-foxes are unable to increase their population numbers rapidly.
What about diseases – am I at risk?
Catching a disease from a flying-fox is extremely unlikely. Australian bat lyssavirus and Hendra virus are two diseases associated with flying-foxes, but they are extremely rare.
To ensure safety:
- Do not approach or handle flying-foxes
- Use protective gloves when moving dead flying-foxes
- Do not locate animal feed or water troughs near trees where bats may feed or roost.
If you are bitten or scratched by a flying-fox, thoroughly wash the wound, apply an antiseptic solution and see your doctor immediately.