Bats can be divided into megabats and microbats.
Microbats or insect bats are small insect eating bats with a wingspan of only 25cm. They often use echolocation to find their way around and roost in colonies in caves or in trees. There are several species found in Queensland.
Megabats are also known as flying foxes or fruit bats and have a wind span of up to 1 metre. There are four species of flying foxes native to mainland Australia: black, grey-headed, little red and spectacled flying foxes. They are fruit-eating flying mammals which live in large colonies or camps, sometimes in close proximity to people.
If flying fox camps establish near human habitation, they can generate both noise and smell, and be seen as unwanted. The flying foxes are put at risk of being hit by cars, being electrocuted by power lines and entangled in fruit tree netting and barbed wire.
However, flying foxes play an important ecological role in dispersing the pollen and fruit of many native trees. They can sometimes fly up to 100km in a night. Unfortunately, flying foxes are threatened and in decline in many areas due to long-term habitat destruction. To conserve them we need to tolerate their presence and protect their habitat.
Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV)
Bats may carry Australian Bat Lyssavirus which can be transmitted to humans through a bite or scratch, or through saliva or neural tissue of the bat coming into contact with broken skin. This disease is deadly to humans. Never attempt to handle a bat of any species unless you are a vaccinated, trained bat carer and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). If you or any member of your family is bitten or scratched by a bat or you suspect that an interaction has occurred with a bat, it is important you seek immediate medical advice. Also, do not allow your dog or cat to interact with the bat. If you believe your dog or cat has interacted with the bat, contact your veterinarian for advice. You can find out more about Australian bat lyssavirus here.
Hendra virus (HeV)
Hendra virus is a virus carried by flying foxes (not microbats) which can cause serious illness in humans. There are no recorded cases of humans contracting HeV directly from bats; however, humans can catch HeV from horses which in turn contract it from flying foxes. There is a vaccine available for horses which protects them from Hendra virus and therefore protects humans as well. For more information about Hendra Virus visit here.
Bats are particularly prone to suffer from heat stress. Bats stressed by the heat will often behave differently than they usually do. They may lose their balance, collapse or appear confused, be seen hanging from low branches or gathered on the ground.
If you see a bat showing these symptoms call 1300 ANIMAL or contact your local bat rescue group. If the heat stressed bats are on the ground you can gently spray them with water or cover them in a cool wet towel to help lower their body temperature while you wait for assistance, but remember not to handle the bat, attempt to pick it up or in any way make direct contact with the bat.
Sick or injured bats
Don’t touch the bat. Call 1300 ANIMAL or contact your local bat rescue group. They will be able to notify someone who is vaccinated and trained to handle flying foxes.
Have you found a dead bat?
If you find a bat that you think is deceased, do not touch it. It is best to dispose of the body by picking it up wearing pierce-proof gloves, or using a plastic bag and towel or a spade and disposing of the body in a bin. Do not make direct contact with the bat.
The RSPCA does not collect deceased bats but if an animal is sick or injured call the 1300 ANIMAL hotline and we will come and help out or organise a bat rescuer to help. Please also remember before removing a dead bat that there may still be a baby bat tucked under its wing as young stay with their mum for a period of time. Don’t touch the baby or mother bat but ring 1300 ANIMAL and report it to us.