- Last updated:
- 07 Jan 2018
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.
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 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.
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 at preventing a new roost establishing nearby. This was successful at the time of the dispersal action for Cassia however the flying foxes returned and established a roosting site at the Elizabeth St drain site on Tradewinds Ave in September 2014. Flying foxes returned to Cassia Wildlife Corridor over the winter in 2017, but have once again abandoned this roost.
Elizabeth Street Drain (Coolum Beach) - Two non-lethal dispersal attempts were undertaken in May and July 2015. Flying foxes returned to the site shortly after each attempt. Limited vegetation management was undertaken in May 2015 prior to the dispersal. In 2016 an Options Paper was commissioned to assess the available management actions at this site and is available on this website. Following a community meeting in May 2016, night works commenced on establishing a flying fox exclusion buffer to give residents between 10 and 30m buffer from the flying foxes. In August 2016 canopy mounted sprinklers were added to this buffer to increase the distance to 40m in some areas. Additional sprinklers were added in October and December 2016. Flying foxes continue to roost at this location, however they periodically abandon the roost as they migrate for food.
Aragorn Bushland Reserve/Stella Maris School (Maroochydore) – Vegetation management to create a 20m flying fox exclusion buffer on the Aragorn Street Bushland Reserve was undertaken in 2014 when the bats were seasonally absent from the roost. In May 2016 a non-lethal dispersal attempt was undertaken. The flying foxes abandoned the roost and relocated to two splinter sites at Eudlo Creek Conservation Area and an island in the Mooloolah River. Flying foxes naturally abandoned the Eudlo Creek site within two weeks and the Mooloolah River roost was naturally abandoned in September 2016. Flying foxes returned to Aragorn Street Bushland Reserve/Stella Maris School in December 2016. In January 2017 an Options Paper was commissioned to assess the available management actions at this site and is available on this website. Following on from community meeting in March 2017, understory weed removal was undertaken with the flying foxes seasonally abandoned the roost at the end of April. Flying foxes returned to this roost at the end of October 2017.
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) – In 2014 an Options Paper was commissioned to assess the available management actions at this site. Council completed the first stage of a 10m flying fox exclusion buffer in 2014. Following on from a community meeting in April and September 2015 this buffer was expanded to 30m behind the primary impacted property. In September and October 2015 canopy mounted sprinklers were added to the buffer to maintain the distance between the impacted resident and flying foxes. Regular annual maintenance is undertaken on the flying fox exclusion buffer when the flying foxes seasonally abandon this roost in April. Flying foxes generally occupy this roost from September to April each year.
Vidler Court (Landsborough) – In 2014 an Options Paper was commissioned to assess the available management actions at this site and is available on this website. Council completed a flying fox exclusion buffer as recommended in 2015. Flying foxes remain at this roost, however they periodically abandon the roost as they migrate for food.
A Flying fox community news is available bi-monthly through Bush Hands, council's environment newsletter. You can subscribe to Bush Hands to learn more about flying foxes and other environmental projects and programs on the Sunshine Coast.
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.
- Management Options - Dunning Street Flying-fox Roost, Palmwoods - Final Report August 2014
- Management Options - Emerald Woods Flying-fox Roost, Mooloolaba - Final Report August 2014
- Management Options - Vidler Court Flying-fox Roost, Landsborough - Final Report September 2014
- Management Options - Coolum Beach area - Final Report April 2016
- Management Options - Maroochydore Aragorn Bushland Reserve Flying-fox Roost - Final Report February 2017
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 has a Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed flying fox available on the Department of Environment website. CSIRO is responsible for the National Flying Fox Monitoring Program. Survey results for roosts within the Sunshine Coast and throughout Australia can be viewed through the interactive map viewer on the Department of Environment website.
All proposed management actions at flying fox roosts must comply with the Queensland Government's Department of Environment and Heritage Protection authorised flying fox for roost management protocols. Management actions at roosts containing Grey-headed flying foxes must also comply with the Federal Governments referral guidelines.
Community health concerns
Flying foxes are hosts to a number of viruses including Hendra and Australian Bat Lyssavirus. Hendra virus can not be transmitted direct from bat to human, there must be an intermediate host such as a horse. Australian Bat Lyssavirus can only be transmitted through a bite or a scratch. If you find a sick or injured flying fox or microbat, please do not touch the animal. Contact RSPCA or 1300 ANIMAL. You can view up-to-date advice about human and livestock health on the Queensland Health and Biosecurity Queensland websites.