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A Guide to Raising Flying-Foxes and Insectivorous Bats

Beautiful baby - D. Smith

Little Red Flying-Fox - D. Smith

Please be aware that the photos on these links show animals in distress or deceased, and may cause some distress to people viewing them.  They are placed here for educational purposes only.


To raise and release any native species requires you to have a license from D.E.S. If you are interested in becoming a carer, please read through this site, then contact this group or another to find out about joining.

This information is a guide only. Practices change and are updated constantly.


Raising Flying-Foxes



In Australia we have Mega-bats and Micro bats.   Mega-bats or Flying-Foxes are blossom & native fruit feeders.   They are the key pollinators in this country.


Microbats are insect eaters (Insectivores) and can eat half their body weight in insects a night. (Good pest controllers)


Both the Flying-Foxes and Insectivorous bats are the only mammal capable of flight.


Queensland has 5 Flying-Fox species:


·          The Black Flying-Fox - large and black, up to 1 kilo in weight.    It is usually black all over but can have colouring on its mantle at the back of the neck.


·          Bare-backed Fruit Bat is a tropical Flying-Fox found only on Cape York and is smaller in weight - up to 550 gram.   It is different to the other bats because the wings join


the mid-line of the backs instead of along the sides of the body.   It gives the bat a "bare back" look.    It is dark brown/black and has a puppy dog looking face.   The thumb and toes are almost white and this Flying-Fox is the only one that roosts in caves and old mines.


·         Grey-Headed Flying-Fox - listed Federally as Vulnerable, it is a large attractive bat weighing up to 1100 grams.    The fur is predominately grey including its head.   It


has a ginger coloured mantle that goes from the front of the neck right around the back.   It is the only flying-fox with furred legs.


·         The Little Red Flying-Fox is smaller - weighing up to 600g.    It is reddish/brown in colour and when flying, the wings seem transparent.    When the Little Reds come to town, they come to party and bring many of their friends and family - sometimes in the thousands.    They are predominantly blossom feeders and follow the flowering of native trees up and down the coast and inland.    In the colony, they hang close together like bunches of grapes.


·          The Spectacled Flying-Fox is large - weighing up to 1 kilo and is an attractive bat with rings of pale gold circles around its eyes henceforth its name.   It also has pale gold around its shoulders and neck. This bat is Federally listed as Vulnerable and is found only in tropical north Queensland.




There are two other Flying-Foxes that don't come into care because they come from above Queensland in the Torres Strait and on the Islands there:


·         The Large-eared Flying-Fox which is small - weighing up to 440grams.


·         The Torresian Flying-Fox.   It is very small - up to 240grams.




There are also the small "Fruit & Blossom Bats":


·         The Eastern Tube-nosed Bat weighs up to 56 grams and has tubular shaped nostrils and is unusual with "bare skinned face & blotches of yellow & dark brown over the wings". The eyes are forward facing and look bulging.     They also have a tail which is concealed.


·         The Eastern Blossom Bat is small - weighing up to 26 grams.   It is light brown to ginger in colour.   It also has a tube-like nose but no tail.


·         The Northern Blossom Bat is also small and weighs up to 17g.    It is similar to the Eastern Blossom bat but it has strips of bare skin along the inside of the hind legs.


It also has a tail that is hidden.




There are at least 55 species of Microbats in Queensland with varying weights and differences.    Sheathtails, Freetails, Horseshoe bats, Bentwings, Broadnosed, Pipistrelles, Gould's long-eared, Chocolate wattled, even a Ghost Bat.     The list is endless. 


Both Flying-Foxes and Insectivorous Bats are a protected species. 


If a bat is on the ground for some reason (they do prefer to hang), put a washing basket/box over the top with something heavy on top of that.   If neither of those is available, a towel can be thrown over the bat.     Please do not pick up or handle the bat.    A bat will be frightened and may lash out or bite.   If you are bitten, the bat will have to be euthanased to be tested for Lyssavirus.     Less than 1% of Flying-Foxes carry Lyssavirus which is a form of Rabies.   The only way to test the bat is to euthanase & examine its head.   Lyssavirus is in the saliva of the bat, not in the faeces or urine.     If bitten, wash the wound with soap and water for several minutes.


If a bat is caught on barbed-wire fence (this does dreadful injuries to not only bats but other wildlife),  please put a light towel over it so that it won't stress too much - sometimes they will try and bite their way off the fence and end up with face and mouth injuries.   Once again, don't try and remove the bat.   Call the O.N.A.R.R. line on (07) 3030 2245


During birthing season (October-December) please note any Flying-Fox deaths on power lines.   It is quite often a mum carrying her little pup (yes, baby flying-foxes are called "pups").    Mum is tired from flying with her pup on-board and goes to hang on the lines only to be electrocuted if her wings touch both lines.    Amazingly, the pup usually survives.    Possibly because it is suckling her milk under her wing and this stops the pup from being electrocuted too.    Please have a good look.    The pup may have abandoned the teat and going all over mum wondering why she won't wake up.    Sometimes it will be calling out - bleating like a little lamb.   Occasionally, a pup will be hanging by itself alive on the line because mum accidentally dropped it.   Please phone the O.N.A.R.R. line (3030 2245) so we can call Energex and arrange an experienced vaccinated Carer to be there to take the pup once it is down.


As the pup gets bigger and is still being carried by Mum, she may "park" it in a tree in a backyard while she goes and forages for food nearby.    Quite often Mum doesn't make it back (dog attack, caught in fruit tree netting, hit by car, shot) in which case the pup will be calling out.   Sometimes mum didn't make it back that night but will return the next night calling for the pup.    We do try and re-unite if there is a chance because they are better being raised by their mum and the Flying-Fox mum is a very loving mum to her pup.


It is best for not only Flying-Foxes but all wildlife if you keep your dog or cat somewhere away from the yard at night.


During the winter months it can be horrendous for flying-foxes just trying to survive.    If it is a bad winter with not much flowering they go in search of other food sources which can be detrimental to their health.   The females are pregnant during this time too and trying to eat for two.   


Backyard fruit trees especially with cheap monofiliament netting thrown over can be deadly.   They get badly caught and sometimes have to be euthanased.   It can be worse than barbed wire.    Shade cloth netting is much safer.


Flying-Foxes that are desperately hungry will also go for mandarins and oranges.  (They are not citrus eaters and much prefer their native blossoms, and native fruits).


Because of their hunger sometimes they will go to the ground to eat the fruit that is there and that is when a dog or cat will strike.


Cocos Palms are a weed and unfortunately Flying-Foxes will go for those as well when there isn't much native food around.   When they are green (during winter) they are poisonous.   The nuts/fruit are very hard and wear the teeth down.    We are getting young bats in with worn down teeth.   If possible remove these weed trees.


People complain of the "smell" of bats.   It is usually the male’s scent gland.    When there are hundreds of males the smell can be strong.   They are trying to attract their female!


DISEASE:  The only disease that can be caught from a bat is Australian Bat Lyssavirus.   Our Bat Carers are vaccinated for Rabies which covers us for Lyssavirus.


There has only been one death from a Flying-Fox from Lyssavirus and one death from an Insectivorous Bat from Lyssavirus.    Both were wildlife carers.    Since then, it is necessary that we are vaccinated before caring for/rescuing Bats. 


Hendra Virus -  Humans do not get Hendra from Bats.   They get Hendra from horses!   There hasn't been one human death by Hendra from the bats.   Some Flying-Foxes do have hendra antibodies which means that they get the blame for Hendra virus.    After 17 years of investigation there is still no proof that Flying-Foxes directly transmit Hendra to horses.    During a number of Hendra outbreaks there were no signs of Flying-Foxes in the area and one was completely away from Flying-Fox distribution.      A well respected Scientist for over 40 years in Queensland who is the person to ask about bats believes there is another vector involved.    The fact that antibodies have been found in a dog and a cat can transmit the virus to horses (done in experiment in a Laboratory) means that there needs to be further research - starting with the horse!


"The bat flew down to attack me"  has been stated in the past.    Bats actually have to fly down and then up to gain height, so it may appear that it is"swooping".   Flying-Foxes would rather avoid people.


Do we need bats?   Of course we do!   


Flying-Foxes are the best pollinators and seed dispersers - much better than birds and bees!    They can fly up to 50 klms a night doing their bit for the environment as they go.    Some native food tree seeds are dispersed only by Flying-Foxes.    They are the Timber Industry's friend - dispersing native hardwood seeds.


Over 9 koala food trees are pollinated by Flying-Foxes.   No Bats - No Koalas.

D. Smith


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