Flying fox community news August 2018

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Article by Tyron de Kauwe, Natural Areas Conservation Officer, Sunshine Coast Council

General flying fox roost updates

For many industries, the end of the financial year is a good time to take stock, so I thought I would do the same with flying fox management. Here is a snapshot of what flying foxes have done over the last 12 months:

With over 20 roost sites across the region and frequent movement of flying foxes across their entire eastern Australia footprint, it is complex to estimate how many individual flying foxes visit the Sunshine Coast over the year. Many even move from one camp to another within the region during different seasons. For instance, some roosts are known to be "bachelor camps" where all the young males hang out together, while others are "maternity roosts" that are used to give birth and raise young in.

While little red flying foxes were seen in some camps in the last 12 months, no monitored camp had more than 5,000 individuals recorded at any time, for the second year in a row.

Over the last year, there has been little change in the overall number of flying foxes recorded in the monitored roosts when compared to the same period in 2016/17. However, the number documented in Hardie Buzacott Wildflower Reserve West has almost doubled. This shift is one we will keep a close eye on to determine whether there is any seasonality or cyclicity to the urban roosts flying foxes occupy or whether we are witnessing an overall shift from the areas they historically establish camps.

Interactive BatMap

Across the region, Tom’s Wildlife currently monitor five of our urban roosts every fortnight and report on population estimate, species and demographic (e.g. pregnant female, independent young) of the flying foxes. This monitoring is incredibly useful and provides great insight into how effective current management techniques may be.

This information is also very important for informing you, the public, on the movements and density of flying foxes in urban areas. Currently, this information may not be displayed as clearly and effectively as it could be. Therefore, we will be trialling a new method of collecting the data and developing a new interactive BatMap, that will allow the public to view the most up-to-date information (including footprints and population size), from all monitored sites across the region.

The new collection method will allow us to compile roost data more effectively. We can determine trends over time and more accurately predict factors such as the expected number of flying foxes, how long they are likely to inhabit the roost for, whether there has been any change over time from various management techniques, and whether they are more likely to occupy different areas across various seasons or years. This information is invaluable to help guide our management techniques and ground-truth their efficacy.

The interactive BatMap will be the visual representation of this data, allowing the public to see the information collected soon after it is received, to ensure you have the most up-to-date data to be well-informed on the scope of this issue.

Both of these are still in development so watch this space for updates on these exciting projects.

QUT potential habitat mapping

As a result of increasing human-wildlife conflict interactions, we are looking at long term solutions to try and encourage flying foxes to move into low-conflict areas, away from the urban landscape. This would benefit everyone, as many humans experience negative impacts from urban roosts and the flying foxes do not enjoy being scattered across small urban roosts, but have been forced to do so due to poor food and habitat availability over their range.

Council engaged Queensland University of Technology (QUT) to investigate roost requirements, to identify areas that are ecologically suitable for flying foxes and therefore determine where the highest conflict may occur. Further to this, QUT established what factors may encourage flying foxes to inhabit areas outside the urban footprint.

For more information on this project and what it means for management, please read our article dedicated to this research.