Orchardists wary as bats fly into town | Video, photos

Farmers wary as bats fly back into town for Christmas | Video, photos


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About 500 roost in trees in Orange.

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About 500 bats have taken up roost in trees in Ploughmans Lane.

Orchardist Guy Gaeta and NSW Farmers Orange branch chair Bruce Reynolds have located the bats in four trees opposite Riawena Oval.

While their numbers are down on last year when thousands moved into the heart of Cook Park their presence has fruit farmers wary.

Mr Gaeta said he first spotted them about two weeks ago.

“There’s been a build up,” he said.

“There were about 150 then but I reckon there is about 500 of them there now.”

Mr Gaeta said he had seen them flying over a neighbour’s orchard near his Nashdale property.

“I’ve got most of my stuff netted but I’m more concerned about the safety of it.”

He said the bats in Ploughmans Lane were close to a pre-school and some horses.

“If my grandchildren were going to that pre-school they wouldn’t be going there now,” he said.

Mr Gaeta said he was concerned about the potential risks to humans through contact with the bats.

He said both grey and red-headed bats were present in the trees.

Mr Reynolds said the bats posed a threat to fruit farmers with cherry crops being picked now and apples not ready until March.

He said the state government should assist farmers by contributing toward providing nets over their fruit.

Mr Reynolds said about 20 Orange region orchardists would benefit.

He called on the state government to provide $3 million on a 50-50 shared basis with farmers to fund the netting.

Mr Reynolds said the government should divert funding from Sydney sports stadium redevelopments into assisting farmers.

“If they can have $2 billion for sport stadiums they could offer $3 million to help the farmers protect their crops,” he said.

Mr Reynolds said the bats were being forced out of their natural coastal homes as their habitats were being destroyed by development.

However, he said the environmental problem should not be handed to farmers.

Health authorities have warned people not to touch bats as they carried life-threatening diseases such as Australian bat lyssavirus, a rabies-like virus.

Australian bat lyssavirus is found in the saliva of infected animals and  can be spread through a bite or scratch.

Central Western Daily

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