Flying foxes back on the Belt
ALARM bells are ringing after a flock of flying foxes was spotted flying south over Glen Aplin recently, just in time for the region's peak fruit picking season.
Hundreds of the fury creatures were filmed by a local man flying over Townsend Rd shortly after 7pm on December 28.
Ballandean-based orchardist Kerry Neal said he wasn't aware there were flying foxes in town, but was concerned about the threat they posed to his crop.
"When they come they come in their thousands and they strip the trees," Mr Neal said.
"At the end of the day you've got to have some form of scare gun or shoot them, but of course you can't shoot them because they're protected.
"I look for them every morning but I haven't seen any yet."
Mr Neal said he had dealings with the animals in previous years which saw him lose his whole crop.
He said because the animals came in their thousands, there was no place for them on the Granite Belt.
"You couldn't have flying foxes live in the area because they'd just eat everything," he said.
"They'd eat hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of fruit. I've seen the damage they can do.
With the end of the summer harvest in sight for many farmers, flying foxes haven't proved to be an issue yet.
But Mr Neal believes farmers are never safe until all their fruit is picked.
"It's not an issue on the Granite Belt until they get here," he said.
"I've only got one block of nectarines left, I'll be finished in three weeks.
"But if they want to get in and eat they will."
The Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) acting director for wildlife, Mike Devery, said DERM were aware of a roost sight in Stanthorpe but none around Glen Aplin.
He said flying foxes are unpredictable animals that may abandon roost sights for several years.
"The Department of Environment and Resource Management has records of a previous flying fox colony at Stanthorpe - but there are no records that it is active," Mr Devery said.
"Flying foxes are highly nomadic and mobile animals and will often leave roost sites in search of food, sometimes returning relatively quickly, but at other times may return years later or not at all."
With crop damage at the forefront of many fruit farmers' thoughts around the state, Mr Devery said there are options for farmers to protect the livelihoods.
But he stressed the legislative importance of leaving the animals unharmed.
"In Queensland, landowners or local authorities can apply to DERM for a damage mitigation permit to manage flying foxes if the animals are causing damages, economic losses or pose a risk to human health," he said.
"Various methods of humane, non-lethal fruit crop protection can be employed by crop growers and orchardists such as light and noise based deterrents. Crop growers and orchardists can do this without applying to DERM for a damage mitigation permit.
"Flying foxes are a protected native species and unauthorised interference with trees or other vegetation which forms part of a flying fox roost attracts a maximum penalty of $100,000 or one year imprisonment."
Mr Devery said although flying foxes can be a nuisance for farmers and communities, they play an important in the environment.
"As pollinators, flying foxes play a crucial role in keeping our forests healthy, in turn these forests provide us with clean air, clean water, they store carbon and provide places for recreation and tourism," he said.