Santa’s coming for Christmas but our uninvited visitors are staying away

ANNUAL: Bats in Orange.
ANNUAL: Bats in Orange.

Fruit growers and farmers are rubbing their hands with glee.

Christmas is only a few weeks away and while Santa will be back in Orange thousands of unwanted visitors are looking like they won’t be here.

Last year thousands of flying foxes searching for food descended on Orange taking roost in trees in Cook Park and on Ploughmans Lane.

They proved to be a major pest to orchardists as the region’s crops of fruit proved a delectable dish for the flying foxes.

Several baby bats had to rescued by Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Services [WIRES] workers after they became orphaned when their mothers died of starvation or animal attacks.

However WIRES bat co-ordinator Storm Stanford said that so far the bats were staying in their usual coastal habitats.

“At the moment there doesn’t seem to be a food shortage in the places where they normally are,” she said.

“There are some west of the mountains in Mudgee, but certainly not in the concentrations that were there last year.

“My understanding is that there are not the vast numbers of animals being taken into care as last year.”

However, she said it did not mean the bats would avoid Orange this year.

“It’s really hard to predict, we’re reading the tea leaves.”

She said last year’s influx had been due to the bat’s normal food sources drying up by November forcing them to head west to find other food.

Ms Stanford said the hot and dry previous summer had effected the growth of eucalypts in coastal areas.

“Last year, although they’ve got a vast array of food sources, all of them failed.”

NSW Farmers executive councillor and Orange mayor Reg Kidd visited the bats’ usual roosts this week and said they were all clear.

“There’s absolutely no sign of them in Cook Park or Ploughmans Lane [and east of Orange],” he said.

“I had a really good look.

“Everything is looking terrific [for growers] at this early stage.”

He said the region’s apple and cherry crops were looking good.

Cr Kidd said the bats tended to roost near water.

“I have noticed that except for the [Cook] park they go for the willow trees.”

Last year the bats were first reported in Orange in November and were still around in numbers in February.