BATHURST may have to learn to live with its flying foxes, rather than use light and noise to disperse them, if they return to Machattie Park this summer.
A report to this week’s Bathurst Regional Council monthly meeting says trying to deter or disperse the animals would not only cost close to $500,000, it would have a low chance of success.
Director of engineering services Darren Sturgiss recommends in his report that council only carry out the “level one” actions within its Flying Fox Camp Management Plan, which includes cleaning park furniture, raking up debris and planting alternative habitat along the Macquarie River.
Thousands of flying foxes – the majority of them grey headed flying foxes, which are protected - arrived in Machattie Park last summer and set up a colony, sparking a months-long community debate.
There were concerns from some residents about the faeces dropped from branches, the potential damage to long-established trees and the chance of catching viruses.
Ecologists, however, said humans needed to be scratched or bitten by the flying foxes to pick up a virus, which was extremely unlikely, and the animals were taking up residence in cities such as Bathurst because so much of their natural habitat had been destroyed.
The report from Mr Sturgiss says council, before taking any action, had to develop a Flying Fox Camp Management Plan to meet NSW Office of Environment and Heritage requirements.
The plan was developed by environmental consultancy group Eco Logical Australia.
Council was also required to prepare a Flying Fox Deterrent and Dispersal Plan, which was developed by the same consultancy group.
Some of the plan’s proposed methods include putting permanent speakers in the trees, installing lighting towers to be directed into the canopy and using manually operated sprinklers.
“It is believed that the minimum cost estimate to carry out the Flying Fox Deterrent and Dispersal Plan is in the vicinity of $460,000 based on the set-up of equipment and six months of flying fox management actions,” Mr Sturgiss writes in the report.
“There is currently no allowance within the annual operating plan to implement these actions,” he writes.
“Should council wish to proceed with the deterrent and dispersal actions, funds to implement such works would need to be sourced by removing other projects that have been proposed within the 2018/19 management plan.”
He said his recommendation to not proceed with the dispersal plan is also based on “the very low success rate of other dispersal attempts” and the “high risk that the flying foxes could disperse to other more unsuitable locations within the city, such as schools or private property”.
“There is also a likelihood that the flying foxes will arrive in Bathurst already in late pregnancy, and therefore council will be required to cease all actions in accordance with OEH [Office of Environment and Heritage] legislative requirements,” he says in the report.
Mr Sturgiss says council is planting flying fox habitat trees along the Macquarie River, which might attract the animals in the future.