Where Did All Our Bats Go?

Where Did All Our Bats Go?

In what was a very odd Summer of 2021/22, our small team of bat rescuers and carers noticed a sudden and very unusual drop in the numbers of Flying Foxes being rescued.

Compared to the previous few years, and especially after the horrendous Black Summer fires, last summer we were at first relieved to have a very quiet start to “bat season”. No  babies came in to care. At all. Relief that they were staying out of trouble. Relief because our carers always would prefer to not have any wildlife needing rescue. Relief because we were all busy with other critters needing care. Relief because we were all affected in some way by Covid, with carers being sick or having family members unwell, or carers sadly being isolated from loved ones living interstate.

But as the quiet bat days became quiet weeks and then months, and not a single bat rescue call, our relief turned on to quiet worry. where were all out bats. The colony at Yass didn’t turn up in early summer. and across the border in ACT, the large colony of Flying Foxes was present but the numbers was nothing compared to previous years.

Most of our Flying foxes that are rescued in our group are those from ACT that cross the border in to NSW regional towns feasting overnight but returning to ACT to roost in the day. Particularly in late summer, as native blossom becomes less easily available the local bats seek out fruit trees and the majority of our rescues occur in late Feb to early April as they find them selves tangled in netting or caught on barbed wire fences.

This past summer, compared to the several bat rescues each week , typical of previous years, we only had 2 Flying Foxes for the whole summer. So good to not have Flying Foxes needing rescue, especially as so many never end well with high mortality rates. But at the same time so worrying. Where were they? Are they OK? Why were they not here in the usual numbers? And if they’re not here, then where are they? Was this about the wet summer conditions? We don’t have answers. We hope it was just a weird year. We try not to worry that this is the beginning of the end of Flying Foxes in our region? We hope they come back next year. We wait and see. We miss those funny little sky puppy faces.

This photo is of a gorgeous girl, one of the two rescued over the summer. She was found at the local Golf Course early one morning. She was found on the ground near a tree. Sadly when we found her she was having seizures. we dont know what happened to her. No netting, not near a road. No wounds to indicate a run in with a raptor.

Poor girl, we didn’t know really what had happened to her, maybe head trauma but she was so unwell we didn’t expect her to survive, not without urgent vet care. She continued to have seizure after seizure for the next 6 hours. As per our usual, no local vets would see her. They are not vaccinated and most won’t allow bats on their premises. As we madly called around trying to find a vaccinated vet to either see her or provide medication to stop the seizures, she deteriorated further. I made the decision that if we couldn’t provide her with appropriate vet care and stop the seizures within the next hour, we would have to euthanase her.  We couldn’t let her continue to suffer and be so unwell. It was horrific watching this poor girl and not being able to do anything more to help her. Finally, we were able to access some diazepam. And then the seizures suddenly stopped. And soon she opened her eyes. The next morning she appeared a little better. The occasional brief seizure but she responded well to medication. And then she seemed hungry and lapped up some apple puree. And slowly, hour by hour, she improved. And each day she became stronger and brighter and hungrier. Our sweet miracle girl seemed OK.

We didn’t have any bat friends for her to hang out with, especially her being the only rescued flying fox in care. Off to Sydney she went, to join other bats and for ongoing care and pre release. So happy to say she recovered completely and was able to be released a few months later.





Melissa Pearce
Wildlife Group
Wildcare Queanbeyan