As part of the development of a camp management plan (see the camp management plan template (PDF 355KB)), the following steps should be considered.
The Office of Environment and Heritage recommends that a detailed feasibility assessment be conducted by the proponent for any proposed Level 3 management actions including regional and site assessments, proposed methods and timing, cost estimates, stop-work triggers, contingency plans and assessment of risks such as environmental, social, health and safety, financial and legislative risks. This assessment will help to determine whether the results of a dispersal attempt are likely to be successful and permanent.
The feasibility assessment should be included in the camp management plan.
A regional assessment should be undertaken to identify existing camps within a 30-kilometre radius (flying-foxes have a preferred foraging radius of about 20 kilometres) and potential flying-fox camp sites within a 6-kilometre radius of the dispersal site. A recent study showed that flying-foxes generally relocate within 6 kilometres of the original camp when dispersed (Ecosure and Griffith University, unpublished data).
Existing camps nearby may be the most likely recipients of any dispersed flying-foxes, and land managers for those camps should be identified and informed of the proposed dispersal.
Suitability of potential roost habitat near the dispersal site should be assessed on the basis of detailed criteria including availability of dispersal corridors, availability and accessibility of food and water, size, plant species composition, canopy structure, proposed developments, and proximity to sensitive areas such as schools, hospitals and residential areas. Office of Environment and Heritage recommends using a rigorous and systematic decision-making process to identify potential habitat and exclude non-suitable habitat, including GIS-aided identification, aerial photographs and computer modelling and establishing weighted criteria for determining site suitability scores.
Any potential roost habitat that occurs in close proximity (less than 300 metres) to human settlements may be contentious if occupied by flying-foxes dispersed from the dispersal site. These should be clearly identified in the camp management plan with contingency plans developed and costed for each site should they become occupied as a result of the dispersal. Discussions and agreements with neighbouring councils are likely to be required where potential habitat is identified in their areas.
Any potential roost habitat that occurs more than 300 metres from human settlements should be investigated to determine its suitability as an alternate roost site. The camp management plan should consider whether these sites could benefit from habitat enhancement to make them more suitable as roost sites such as improving water availability, establishing protective ground cover, or planting with future roosting trees. Such actions should be implemented well before the proposed dispersal.
A detailed plan of the site of the proposed dispersal should be prepared, including high-resolution mapping identifying the approximate total area of the camp and the approximate area occupied by flying-foxes including historical occupation.
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 population assessment of the camp to determine population numbers, presence/ratio of dependent young (flightless and flying), presence/ratio of lactating or late-pregnancy females, as well as a visual assessment of the health of Grey-headed Flying-fox individuals.
Where vegetation clearing is the proposed method of dispersal, the location and size of the area, and the vegetation type that would need to be cleared or altered once flying-foxes have left the site should also be identified. An assessment of the likely ecological consequences of any clearing should be conducted by a suitably qualified expert.
If active dispersal is used, disturbance must be carried out using non-lethal means, such as acoustic, visual and/or physical disturbance or use of smoke.
Disturbance activities must be limited to a maximum of 2.5 hours in any 12-hour period, preferably at or before sunrise or at sunset. Disturbance should cease at least 30 minutes before sunrise to allow animals to find a roost.
If passive dispersal is used, ensure that trees are not felled, lopped or have large branches removed when flying-foxes are in or near to a tree and likely to be harmed. The action must not involve the clearing of all vegetation supporting the flying-fox camp.
Before starting Level 3 management actions, conduct a health and safety risk assessment to determine the appropriate levels of personal protective equipment required and identify protocols to minimise risks to both the public and 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.
A public communication program should be established to notify local residents of the proposed dispersal and other information as appropriate including health and safety advice. A copy of the program should be provided to Office of Environment and Heritage.
A protocol based on the NSW Code of Practice for Injured, Sick and Orphaned Flying-Foxes (PDF 85KB) should be developed and made available to all relevant council staff, local residents and volunteers prior to the action commencing. Contact should be made with local wildlife rescue and rehabilitation groups before actions commence.
To minimise risk and avoid detailed planning requirements, any dispersal proposed during a time of significant population stress should be postponed. Instead, Level 1 and Level 2 management actions could be used to mitigate any human-flying-fox conflicts until the population is no longer under significant stress.
Dispersal actions must be supervised by a person with knowledge and experience relevant to the management of flying-foxes and their habitat who can identify dependent young and is aware of climatic extremes and food stress events. This person must make an assessment of the relevant conditions and advise the supervisor/proponent whether the activity can go ahead consistent with these guidelines.
Notification of the dispersal start date must be provided to Office of Environment and Heritage and any land managers of flying-fox camps within 30 kilometres of the dispersal site at least 48 hours prior to commencement, within business hours.
Liaison with the NSW Environment Protection Authority may be required where acoustic disturbance is proposed to ensure appropriate management of noise issues.
The initial dispersal
Office of Environment and Heritage will generally stipulate a number of conditions to licensed dispersal actions. These conditions set limitations on when the dispersal is allowed, identify stop-work triggers and define monitoring and reporting requirements.
These conditions may include:
- The establishment of a dispersal team of appropriately experienced, trained, inducted and vaccinated personnel.
- The presence of an appropriately qualified flying-fox expert during dispersal activities to monitor the behavioural response of the flying-foxes to the disturbance.
- The presence of a licensed wildlife carer during dispersal activities in the event of any injury to flying-foxes.
- The presence of a representative of the proponent (for example a council officer) during dispersal activities to ensure that licence conditions are met.
- Instructions on the nature and timing of disturbance allowed during dispersal activities.
- The establishment of a designated rest area within the flying-fox camp as a refuge for flying-foxes during disturbance, to be reduced in size over the course of dispersal activities.
- Limits on the nature, timing and extent of vegetation clearing to be used in passive dispersal.
Maintenance (follow-up) dispersals
Continued disturbance may be required to ensure that dispersed animals do not return to the dispersal site. Office of Environment and Heritage may allow maintenance dispersals to be implemented at the original camp to prevent the camp from re-establishing.
Maintenance dispersals may be carried out in March-December, provided there are no dependent young or individuals in visibly poor health in the camp, as determined by a suitably qualified flying-fox expert.
If, despite maintenance actions, flying-foxes are found to continue to persist in numbers comparable with pre-dispersal numbers then the program should be reconsidered in consultation with Office of Environment and Heritage.
Nearby residents must be notified of any maintenance action, within a timeframe as agreed to by the residents.
The action must be supervised by a person approved by Office of Environment and Heritage and with knowledge and experience relevant to the management of flying-foxes and their habitat, who can satisfactorily identify that flightless young or individuals in poor health are not present. This person must make an assessment of the relevant conditions and advise the site supervisor whether the activity can go ahead consistent with these guidelines.
Council must contact Office of Environment and Heritage during the planning stage of any maintenance dispersals.
Actions at other sites
When flying-foxes are dispersed from a camp, it is likely they will find alternative roost sites within 6 kilometres of the original camp.
Appropriate contingency plans and associated budget and resource planning are essential to address the likelihood of implementing actions at other sites, including discussions and agreements with neighbouring councils where relevant.
Monitoring of camps and potential habitat identified in the regional assessment will be essential during and after dispersal activities (see Monitoring, evaluation and reporting).
Office of Environment and Heritage must be notified if the proponent of the dispersal becomes aware of new flying-fox camps (splinter camps) establishing or if there is an influx of flying-foxes at nearby established camps. If this occurs, an assessment will be made on whether the site is an appropriate flying-fox roost site, in consultation with the proponent and the relevant land owner/manager.
An alternative roost site may be suitable if:
- The camp is unlikely to negatively impact on any threatened species, populations or ecological communities or their habitats.
- The neighbouring landowners or managers are accepting of occupancy within their land or neighbouring areas.
- There is a minimum 300 metre buffer separating the camp from residential dwellings, or if the buffer is less than this, only with neighbouring landowners' and managers' approval.
- There is capacity to provide a large enough area of suitable roosting habitat.
If the splinter camp or the influx at an existing camp is deemed inappropriate according to the above criteria, then a dispersal at that site may also be required, provided:
- More than 50 flying-foxes have settled at the site for more than three days (unless the flying-fox expert is satisfied that the site is unlikely to be a temporary refuge that may be naturally abandoned, in which case the action can be undertaken if fewer than 50 flying-foxes are present, or in less than 3 days).
- Stakeholders (including landowners and land managers) have agreed to the timing and duration of disturbances.
- All costs associated with the dispersal, including community consultation, are the responsibility of the original proponent.
If there is an influx of flying-foxes at nearby known camps, and Office of Environment and Heritage considers it likely that these impacts have been caused by the action at the dispersal site, but a dispersal is not considered appropriate, then the proponent will provide assistance to the relevant land manager to ameliorate impacts of the displaced flying-foxes on amenity issues, and impacts on the displaced flying-foxes. The details of this assistance are to be developed in consultation with Office of Environment and Heritage.
Triggers and safeguards
To avoid or mitigate unnecessary impacts on flying-foxes, roost habitat and local residents, triggers for adaptive management should be clearly outlined in the camp management plan. Office of Environment and Heritage should be notified if any of the trigger points are reached.
Triggers to cease the dispersal program may include:
- Unacceptable levels of stress, fatigue, injury or death of flying-foxes.
- A certain number of noise complaints is received.
- Impacts are created or exacerbated at other locations, including existing flying-fox camps, and there are unlikely to be sufficient resources available to ameliorate these impacts.
- An ongoing proliferation of splinter camps in unsuitable locations.
- Splinter camps become established at inappropriate locations and Office of Environment and Heritage or the proponent considers that for ecological, social or other reasons, a dispersal at the splinter location is not appropriate.
- More than 50% of the total Greyheaded flying-fox occupying the camp during pre-dispersal monitoring are still present after a nominated period of dispersal activity.
- More than a nominated number of maintenance or splinter camp dispersals are required within any 12-month period.
- A camp is recolonised despite ongoing maintenance dispersals.
- Allocated resources are exhausted.
If the dispersal program is stopped, the proponent should reassess the program in consultation with Office of Environment and Heritage.
Monitoring, evaluation and reporting
Monitoring is essential to assess what has and what hasn't worked when managing flying-fox camps. 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:
- Surveys of potential habitat for flying-foxes for roosting activity in the weeks prior to commencing the initial dispersal activity and the weeks after the dispersal activity, including known and previous roosts within 30 kilometres of the site, and any areas identified in the camp management plan as 'potential flying-fox habitat' within 6 kilometres of the site.
- Daily monitoring during dispersal and maintenance dispersal activities, at the original site and any splinter sites, to determine population numbers, the camp extent, signs of morbidity or mortality, and whether the breeding status has changed.
- Liaison with wildlife carers to monitor any increase in the number of flying-foxes being taken into care or showing signs of stress, including aborted young.
- Details of the camp prior to management action.
- Details of the community engagement process.
- Details of the disturbance methods, timing, spatial extent, daily duration, triggers and contingencies for each site where activities are conducted.
- An assessment of the outcome of the action, including reactions of flying-foxes.
- The results of pre- and post-action population monitoring, including behaviour of flying-foxes during disturbance, numbers of injured, orphaned and dead flying-foxes located during the 7 days following the principal dispersal event, numbers of flying-foxes returning to the site at 1 week, 1 month, 6 months and 12 months after the main disturbance event.
- Any information on new camps that established subsequent to the action, and population numbers of camps in the local area.
- A summary of any responses or complaints to the action from residents or other individuals/groups.
- Details of any associated Level 1 and Level 2 management actions.
- Expenditure (financial and in-kind costs) on the dispersal program.
- Evaluation of change in conflict at disturbance site as indicated by community surveys.
- Evaluation of sites that received influx of flying-foxes from disturbance event including contentious issues as indicated by community surveys.
Quarterly monitoring and evaluation reports must be submitted to Office of Environment and Heritage for at least the first year following the dispersal activity.