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'Very distressing': Threatened Aussie species filmed 'stuck' to the ground

The video shows a native flying-fox writhing on the ground seemingly unable to fly away.

WARNING — GRAPHIC IMAGES: A video of a flying fox writhing on the ground has wildlife rescuers scratching their heads, unsure how the animal was harmed, yet the long list of possibilities highlights the challenges these threatened animals face.

A grey-headed flying fox, a type of native bat, was spotted in an inner west suburb of Wollongong, NSW last week and was found flapping and shrieking as a worried local frantically searched for the best way to help the animal.

The 'distressed' flying fox can be seen on the ground surrounded by leaves and twigs.
The 'distressed' flying fox was spotted on the ground, unclear whether it was in pain or panicking. Source: Facebook/SnakeIdentificationAustralia

"This is very distressing. I can’t see what it is trapped by," the local wrote online saying the animal appeared "stuck".

"I don't know how to help or who to contact?".

How did the flying fox get into the 'distressed' state?

Despite wildlife rescuers responding to the call within a "couple of minutes" of being notified, the animal — which was identified as a juvenile female — died within 30 minutes of the rescue.

The team were unable to examine her and provide initial triage, meaning they could not pinpoint how she was harmed, leaving them to guess instead.

"We're not sure of the cause of death for this particular girl," wildlife rescuer Laura told Yahoo News Australia. "But the main causes of death for these guys are powerlines, habitat destruction and poisoning from the fruit of cocos palm... oh, and barbed wire."

Left, a flying-fox can be seen hanging from a power line above trees. Right, a flying-fox can be seen tangled up in barbed wire.
Many flying fox deaths have been reported after the animals made contact with powerlines or barbed wire. Source: Facebook/NorthernBeachs and NSW Government

Flying foxes are listed as a threatened species and are protected in Australia due to the myriad of factors rapidly decreasing the population.

It has become a common sight to find a bat hanging from powerlines after being electrocuted, with the destruction of natural habitat forcing the animals into more urban areas. If the animal isn't killed instantly by the electricity, it can instead fall from a great height and sustain injury or suffer from the high voltage.

Three flying-foxes can be seen in a row hanging from a tree branch.
Flying foxes need to drop from a height in order to fly, with the animals often panicking when they fall to the ground, a wildlife rescuer said. Source: Getty

"They can't gain flight from the ground like birds can. They can only fly from initially dropping from where they were hanging ... so when they are on the ground they panic," Laura said.

What is the best thing to do in this instance?

If an injured animal is found in nature, contacting WIRES promptly is the best course of action. Having a trained individual on the scene to care for the animal will increase its chances of survival.

"We warn people to not touch bats unless they are vaccinated," the wildlife rescuer said. Bats are known to carry the viral disease lyssavirus which is related to rabies. It is rare but potentially fatal.

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