Murrurundi residents frustrated with town's flying fox plague

MURRURUNDI residents are becoming increasingly frustrated with the town’s flying fox plague, which has reared its ugly head in the past month.

Facebook groups have been established so they can vent their vexation, while some locals have vowed to take matters into their own hands if the situation isn’t dealt with soon.

There is even talk of people being concerned about sending their children back to school after the holiday break.

“We don’t know what the answer is but someone must,” said Mark and Christine Middleton, who took over Café Telegraph in November.

“Originally, it was a small problem.

“But, three weeks ago, the dilemma has trebled.  

“Trees are being destroyed, the water fouled and I believe there could be health issues,” Mrs Middleton added.

“Plus, the noise and stench is really bad.

“If you wake up at three in the morning, it’s hard to get back to sleep.

“The decibels are extremely high,” Mr Middleton quipped.

“If someone had a party [with that much noise], they’d get into trouble.

“And, because the bats appear to be agitated, they’re constantly moving around, which makes the situation worse.”

Mr Middleton estimates the colony boasts between 5000 and 8000 flying foxes.

“We’ve heard about what’s happened in Singleton, Aberdeen and other places – and hope it doesn’t get to that stage here,” he said.

“We don’t know where they’ve come from.

“I’ve tried to get rid of them, without much luck.

“We’ve even set up a sonar [system], which keeps them 30m from the house.

“However, it’s a major irritant.

“I reckon there’s more chance of dismantling IS than ridding us of the bats.”

Upper Hunter Shire Council’s director of environmental and customer services Mat Pringle said council had sought advice from the NSW Department of Health and the Office of Environment and Heritage and all available information suggests that the risks to public health is low.

Nevertheless, human health will always be foremost in any of council’s actions, he explained.

“We know that flying fox camps are currently being found in unusual localities across the state due to food shortages in late 2016 and significant heat events earlier this year,” Mr Pringle said.

“We are hoping that the bats in Murrurundi will move on once the local food sources diminish.”

Council has been working with Hunter Councils, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and the local community to develop a camp management plan for the shire to minimise the impacts on the community, while conserving flying foxes in their habitat.

As part of the development of this plan, council is asking residents to complete a survey about the flying foxes, which is available on council’s website or www.flyingfoxengage.com/Aberdeen and has been extended until April 28.