Starving and dehydrated bats are being rescued at an alarming rate across the Gold Coast.
Freezing weather conditions and heavy rain have caused blossoms, a flying fox primary food source, to disappear.
Desperate for nourishment, increased numbers of the native bats are venturing into areas they wouldn’t usually go into and colliding with humans.
This issue led to reports that bats are attacking Queenslanders, a notion experts say is unfounded.
Rhiannon Traish-Walker from rescue group Bats Queensland told Yahoo News Australia her team is rescuing an average of two bats a day — double the winter average.
Colonies have been dividing into smaller groups around populated areas, to be closer to their remaining food sources. This allows the starving bats to conserve energy when they fly at night.
Bats Queensland has been finding bats in a number of irregular settings including the low branches of trees and even inside car parks.
“They take more risks going to areas where there is food that they wouldn't normally go to because it's highly populated,” Ms Traish-Walker said.
“They’re flying lower to the ground, near to cars, near to dogs, they’re getting into more crashes.
“But they’re not attacking people.”
Simple reason why flying foxes could collide with humans
Because flying foxes hang upside-down in trees, their flight pattern off the branch and into the sky can sometimes lead to collisions.
“They tend to drop, and then go up into the air, when they've taken off,” Ms Traish-Walker said.
“So they have this U-shaped flight when they take off so they can get into the way of people.”
Youngsters are also learning the ropes, so rather than being afraid of bats, Ms Traish-Walker urges compassion.
Australia, along with New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands are currently rabies-free, however, there are still disease warnings about handling bats.
Anyone who sees a sick or injured bat should not touch it, as they can carry an illness that can be transferred to humans called lyssavirus.
Bats Queensland volunteers have been vaccinated against the virus, and are able to respond to animals in need of assistance.
Flying foxes essential to Australian forest health
Flying foxes are Australia’s primary long-range pollinator and are essential for the cross-fertilisation of eucalypt species, including those eaten by koalas.
Helen Church from non-profit Humane Society International notes that on top of the short-term impact of this year’s weather conditions, bats were already suffering from the impact of land clearing and climate change.
“Bats will very rarely interact with humans, and these recent incidents point to the desperation of these starving animals,” she said.
“Flying-foxes are absolutely vital for the health of ecosystems in Australia, acting as keystone species which help to spread seeds and pollinate forest plants.
“Several flying-fox species in Queensland are also threatened and are protected by law.
“We need to have sympathy and understanding for the plight of these animals, as well as for the people who have been affected by these incidents.”
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