FLYING FOX INVASION
By KIREN THANDI
IMAGINE getting up at five in the morning for a walk or run around the beach or lake, only to find that it appears to be raining.
And then you realise it's not rain, but bat urine that is falling on you.
This is what is happening to residents in the Woolgoolga lake area, where a population explosion in the bat colony has seen numbers surge in the past year.
"There are swarms and swarms of them," says Lakeside Caravan Park resident Kevin Little.
At last count, about six months ago, there were about 40,000 of the grey-headed flying foxes in the colony, however, residents believe that the population may be triple now, such are their numbers.
Visitors of the caravan park joined concerned locals about six months ago, taking their concerns regarding the bats to Coffs Harbour City Council (CHCC).
An expert came out to talk to them about their concerns, however as the bats are listed as vulnerable species under the Threatened Species Act 1995, council say that they can't help with the problem.
This doesn't help residents, who are sick of the stench the bats bring to the area.
"They smell putrid," Mr Little said.
"In the morning it's as if it's raining, but it's bat urine."
Mr Little said the problem had expanded last year, when the colony numbers exploded.
"People are adamant that (the bats) need to be protected but the numbers are here," he said, questioning how large the population had to be before they would be removed from the endangered list.
Mr Little is also concerned about the threat the bats have to the environment, and possible detrimental effects on health.
He said that the bats have viruses that are injurious to humans, and that there had been two cases ? albeit non-local ? where people had died after being bitten by bats.
The trees along the lake road have been denuded, with only the bats themselves hanging from the branches as if they were the foliage.
One resident of Sunset Lakes, Joan Piggott, had to cut down her papaw trees after the bats scavanged them.
"I'm not troubled all that much by them," she said, "but they've been taking our papaws."
Mrs Piggott said she had been living in the area for eight years, and there had been no bats in the area then.
According to CHCC, the settlement is a permanent maternity camp, like the one at Coffs Creek, however current numbers are unknown.