Flying-foxes

Flying-fox Camps in Byron Shire

There are 16 known flying-fox camps in the Byron Shire, however not all of them are covered by the Byron Shire Flying-fox Camp Management Plan(PDF, 38MB) . 

Five camps in Byron Shire are near houses and Council is working with residents to help manage the impact of living with flying-foxes at these camps through the implementation of the Plan. These camps are located in:

  • Mullumbimby

  • Bangalow (Paddy’s Creek camp)

  • Byron Bay (camps located at Butler Street and Middleton Street)

  • Suffolk Park (Beech camp)

Flying-foxes may occupy a camp for months or years and generally leave for the winter.  Over the last few years, Middleton Street camp in Byron Bay has had residents all year. At the other four camps, the flying-foxes leave over the winter months, to return in the spring. The numbers of residents at each camp varies from month to month and year to year.

Graph of Flying fox abundance 2012-2019

Flying-fox Camp Management Plan

Council has developed the Byron Shire Flying-fox Camp Management Plan(PDF, 38MB) in accordance with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) Camp Management Plan Template and Policy The Plan articulates Council's intent for both existing and new roosts to the community.

This Flying-fox Camp Management Plan (the Plan) has been prepared for Byron Shire Council to guide future management of five separate flying-fox camps:

  • Beech Dve camp (Suffolk Pk)
  • Butler St camp(Byron Bay)
  • Middleton St camp (Byron Bay)
  • Mullumbimby camp
  • Paddy’s Creek camp (Bangalow).

The flying-fox camps listed above are located in urban environments.  While there are 16 known flying-fox camps in the Shire, not all camps are covered by this Plan because they do not significantly affect the local community.

This Plan is consistent with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) Camp Management Plan Template and Policy to facilitate licensing of camp management actions over the next five years.

The objectives are to:

  1. Minimise impacts to the community, while ensuring long-term conservation of flying-foxes and their habitat in Byron Shire
  2. Provide a reasonable level of amenity for the surrounding community
  3. Manage public health and safety risks
  4. Enable land managers and other stakeholders to use a range of suitable management responses to sustainably manage flying-foxes
  5. Improve community understanding and appreciation of flying-foxes, including their critical ecological role
  6. Ensure camp management does not contribute to loss of biodiversity or increase threats to threatened species/ communities
  7. Implement an adaptive management approach to camp management based on evidence collected.

Plan Implementation - Where are we now?

Council has applied for funds to implement the plan from several external sources and has been successful with one application to date. This money, together with Council's own funds will be used to implement the priority actions in the plan.

The first task has been the development of Vegetation Management Plans (VMPs) for Mullumbimby, Middleton St and Paddys Ck camps. These VMPs will guide activities to rehabilitate the camp areas by eradicating weeds and regenerating the area with native vegetation, particularly towards the centre of the roost sites with the aim to draw the flying-foxes away from houses to reduce their impacts on the community.    

Further applications have been made for funds to help create cleared buffers to move the roost site away from houses in identified areas.

Flying-fox Camp Monitoring

Council actively participates in the National Flying-Fox Monitoring Programme (NFFMP). The NFFMP  focuses primarily on monitoring national Grey-headed and Spectacled flying-fox populations, however within the range of these two species, counts of Black and Little Red Flying-foxes are also undertaken. The monitoring programme includes four censuses per year (February, May, August and November). The NFFMP is being coordinated by CSIRO, with additional resources and support from relevant state governments including the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).

Byron Shire Council has participated in the census since its inception in 2012 and counts both Grey-headed and Black Flying-foxes at the five sites in the Camp Management Plan.

Safety Around Flying-Foxes

DO NOT TOUCH OR HANDLE. If you encounter an injured flying-fox, please contact:

Flying-fox colonies in public places, such as parks, school grounds and residential areas, can sometimes raise concerns about possible health risks for community members. Concerns include flying-fox infections, noise, odour and the impact of flying-fox droppings on houses, cars, and washing.

Advice from the NSW Health includes:

  • The major risk is Australian Bat Lyssavirus, which is transmitted via bites or scratches.

  • The faeces are also a risk for gastro-intestinal pathogens and good hand hygiene should be followed after being in an area contaminated by droppings.

  • If bitten or scratched by a Flying-fox, wash the wound immediately with soap and water, apply an antiseptic such as povidone-iodine and consult a doctor.

For more information see the NSW Health Factsheet, and the Australian Department of Health Information.

It is an offence under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, and the Local Government Act 1993, for a person to damage any habitat of a threatened species or threatened ecological community.

Any unlawful activity relating to damage to flying-fox habitat will be investigated by Council’s Community Enforcement Team and/or the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH). 

Living with Flying Foxes

For reasons we don’t understand, flying-foxes often set up camp near towns and people. They don’t often eat where they live and will travel up to 50km to get to a food source each night. Where they fly to each night depends on what native vegetation is flowering or fruiting at the time.  If they can’t find native food in their area, they will eat fruit and flowers from our gardens and orchards. They leave their roosts at dusk and generally return before dawn to rest at their roost.

The Office of Environment and Heritage provides information on living with flying foxes.

Flying-fox Community Project Reference Group

In September 2018, the Flying-fox Community Project Reference Group was formed, made up of community representatives from the flying fox camp areas, a representative from Northern Rivers Wildlife Carers or WIRES  Northern Rivers and representatives from Office of Environment & Heritage and Dept of Industry Crown Lands.

The Project Reference Group uses its expertise, influence, local knowledge and connections, to provide feedback to Council on its implementation of the Flying-fox Camp Management Plan. It helps Council in understanding the issues the community faces living alongside flying-foxes in an urban setting and help to convey messages and information between our community and Council.

We are looking for one more representative from the Butler Reserve camp in Byron Bay. If you are interested in being part of the Project Reference Group, or would like more information on flying-foxes, please contact our Biodiversity Project Officer on 02 6626 7253