BATS GALORE: An estimated 100,000 little red flying foxes have found a comfortable home on the banks of the Richmond River at Casino. 
Photo Contributed
BATS GALORE: An estimated 100,000 little red flying foxes have found a comfortable home on the banks of the Richmond River at Casino. Photo Contributed Contributed

Bats are back but in reduced numbers

THE temporary colony of little red flying foxes has returned to Casino in reduced numbers for the Summer season.

The estimated 10,000-strong colony arrived in the last week of December and is expected to hang around (pun intended) until the end of the month, when the bats head north to prepare for birthing season.

The females give birth in May, in central Queensland.

The visiting population is distinct from the smaller, permanent colony of black and grey-headed flying foxes.

Storms reduce numbers

In previous years, little red numbers have been between 50,000 and 100,000. This year's smaller colony has been attributed to wide spread storms which have affected pollen, nectar and fruits. Bats are an integral part of the bush ecosystem, helping to pollinate various plant species.

The good news is, for the first time, some of the bats are camping in tree plantings put in around nine years ago by Richmond Valley Council.

Enticing away from houses

Council planted 1500 rainforest trees between Queen Elizabeth Park and the river, just downstream of the footbridge for the purpose of improving habitat for native animals, and in an attempt to entice flying foxes away from houses and businesses. The trees have reached a stage where they are tall enough to develop a canopy and provide a roost.

As part of its long-term revegetation strategy, Council is continuing to plant the riverbank further downstream to improve environmental outcomes.

As proven in the past, the hot temperatures forecast for this weekend and next week could wreak havoc on the colony.

Environmental well-being

Council's environmental health officers will work with WIRES Northern Rivers volunteers to monitor the wellbeing of the town's flying fox colony, with temperatures ranging from 32 degrees up to 36 degrees forecast for the next four days.

People should not try to help living bats themselves as they could bite and scratch, and some carry the lyssavirus.

If you come across a bat which needs help, please call WIRES on 6628 1866, or Council on 6660 0300.