Council tracks bats’ flights of fancy across region

GOING BATTY: Monitered flight paths of 10 Flying foxes showed no consistency to their movements.
GOING BATTY: Monitered flight paths of 10 Flying foxes showed no consistency to their movements. Contributed

WHERE would you go if you could fly?

Not very far if you were a flying fox, apparently.

Since colonies of flying foxes became an issue for some parts of the Sunshine Coast, the regional council has been eagerly following the flight paths of 10 of the animals fitted with satellite trackers.

The trackers were attached to the flying foxes in April 2015 to see if there is any consistency to their movements.

It turns out there isn't.

Since the trackers were deployed, some of the flying foxes have visited Fraser Island, some have ventured as far as Gladstone but four have remained in Coolum where they were first trapped.

RELATED: 'Noise crews' move in to disperse Coolum's bat colony

One chooses to roost and feed in the same place every day, while another has been jet-setting around the Coast, roosting and feeding with no apparent pattern.

FLIGHTS OF FANCY: The paths of some of the flying foxes fitted with monitoring devices.
FLIGHTS OF FANCY: The paths of some of the flying foxes fitted with monitoring devices.

Environment Portfolio Councillor Jenny McKay said the pioneering research, funded by the council's environment levy, would inform and improve flying fox management in the region.

"We have two main aims with our flying fox research - to reduce conflict in urban areas and to protect a native species that is vitally important to our environment," Cr McKay said.

"Understanding the movement of the species is crucial to allowing us to proactively manage them into the future.

"We're only at the beginning of our research journey, but already we're gathering solid baseline data that is helping confirm and disprove our assumptions."

For example, she said it had long been suspected that flying foxes treated each roost like a hotel.

While a roost may be full, it might not be full of the same bats each night.

"This is clearly demonstrated in the tracking data," Cr McKay said.

"Officers are and will continue to ground-truth the data to confirm what we are seeing is accurate, before cross-checking it to look for patterns and variants.

"From here we'll be in a much better position to implement and adapt our flying fox management."

There may be up to three species of flying fox visiting more than 20 Sunshine Coast camps, which are evenly distributed throughout the region.

The camps fluctuate in occupancy throughout the year.

In April 2015, council became the first local government in Queensland to deploy satellite tracking technology to monitor these local populations.

Council will monitor the animals over the next nine months, using live mapping data provided by the trackers to answer questions such as how far do they travel, is there a relationship between roosts, where do they feed and do management activities work.



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