Bathurst's bats present little risk to humans, park: WIRES | Video, photos, pictures

BATS may have a reputation that proceeds them, but a WIRES carer said the community should not fear the resident population in Machattie Park.

The grey-headed flying foxes, a species of bat, flew into the city in early December, and since then they have attracted criticism from the community and Bathurst Regional Council.

WIRES bat co-ordinator Storm Stanford said health fears and potential damage to trees were often the public’s main concerns about bats.

And while all types of bats can carry life-threatening diseases such as Australian Bat Lyssavirus, infections were extremely rare.

Ms Stanford said in her 15 years of working with bats, she has only ever come across two with this disease.

“It’s incredibly rare, but if you’re bitten or scratched there’s a very effective vaccine,” she said.

While the small number of human deaths from lyssavirus was tragic, Ms Stanford said they were due to a “lack of knowledge”.

The virus can only been spread by saliva, not by bat urine or faeces that may be found where the bats are living.

IN RESIDENCE: Hundreds of grey-headed flying foxes are now calling Machattie Park home. But is that a bad thing? Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK 121117cbats4

IN RESIDENCE: Hundreds of grey-headed flying foxes are now calling Machattie Park home. But is that a bad thing? Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK 121117cbats4

“If you’re bitten or scratched you do need to seek medical help,” Ms Stanford said.

The chance of damage to the park’s trees can be reduced if people do not deliberately make moves or actions to disturb the bats while they are roosting.

“Every time they take off and land they’re likely to do damage to the growing points [new growth],” she said.

“If people go and disturb them they are much more likely to damage the tree.”

Ms Stanford said Bathurst’s recent hot and dry weather will also help to encourage them to move on as bats are very susceptible to heat and prefer wetter, cooler coastal conditions.

The protected native animals are migratory and follow food sources, in particular flowering eucalyptus trees, and she said once their feed around Bathurst has run out she expects they will move on.