Bats overcome by heat

Bats overcome by heat

The extreme heat that swept Victoria last Friday wreaked havoc on the flying fox colony in trees along the Mitchell River in Bairnsdale.

About 1400 bats were unable to cope with the heat and fell to their deaths.

As the bats began falling out of the trees, overcome from the heat, East Gippsland police issued a warning to stay away from the area.

On its Eyewatch Facebook page, police said the incident had been declared “a Natural Emergency” and that “members of the public are prohibited from going to the area”.

“The bats are diseased and people require specific inoculation to handle them,” police said online.

The post said DELWP Gippsland and the East Gippsland Shire were managing the area and had closed off the Mitchell River walking track from the Port of Bairnsdale to the Wy Yung Football Oval in Eastwood.

DELWP confirmed the number of deaths and said a further 900 grey-headed flying foxes had also been lost in a colony just outside Maffra.

“Heat stress events are natural and flying foxes have evolved to deal with temperatures in excess of 40 degrees for short periods,” DELWP program manager, Peter Simpson, said.

“They are not equipped to deal with prolonged temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius, especially when the heat is accompanied by low humidity and hot drying winds, as was experienced on January 25.

“Following monitoring of the colony, DELWP initiated an emergency response to conduct assessments and triage of injured and heat stressed flying foxes.”

Mr Simpson said a small number of bats had been taken into rehabilitation by accredited wildlife carers.

He said carcass removal had occurred at both sites and the Mitchell River walking track has now been reopened.

John Glynn, from the Riverine Bat Cluster, a group that advocates for removing the bats to a safer location, told the News “it is a shame to have anything die due to heat, be it human or animal”.

“Maybe if these animals had been safely removed 10 years ago, as the rational community members requested, to roosting places in forest areas that have trees with protective foliage, this may not have occurred,” Mr Glynn said.

“The unfortunate animals are in the current location in such numbers because the authorities have removed their roosting trees from the Mitchell River for kilometres over the decades without any due process planning for the multi-tiered consequences, including bat health and survival.

“The same authorities and experts are now in charge of this situation, sitting on their hands for years not having a clue what to do,” Mr Glynn said.

The Bat Cluster Group estimates there are between 30-40 thousand bats roosting in trees along the Mitchell River.

The location of the greyheaded flying foxes has divided the community with some locals living in the area arguing they should be removed because of the stench, noise and risk they pose to passers-by.

PICTURED: Despite the deaths of hundreds of bats, which fell from trees along the Mitchell River, during Fridayʼs extreme heat wave, itʼs estimated a colony of between 30,000 to 40,000 remain.


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