The seasonal camp of Grey-headed flying foxes at the Glebe Wetlands in Bega has grown to a record size as large numbers of the threatened species find refuge in the Bega Valley following the black summer bushfires.
The Friends of Glebe Wetlands group have completed a second count of the population since the foxes' arrival late in October.
"The approximately 43,000 flying foxes counted on this occasion represent the largest ever count recorded at the Glebe Wetlands in over eight years of monitoring flying foxes in Bega," ecologist Hugh Pitty said.
Mr Pitty said the count was more than double the previous December record set in 2014 of 20,495 and the highest ever count of around 30,000 in February of 2013.
Mr Pitty said a large number of flying foxes had also taken up residency in the Panboola Wetlands earlier than the usual season, with a count of more than 18,000 recently.
Between the two wetlands, Mr Pitty said the flying fox population was significant.
"This is at least 10 per cent of the entire population of Grey-headed flying fox, which was nominally at 600,000 prior to the significant losses suffered as a consequence of the combined effects of drought and bushfires," Mr Pitty said.
He said research was continuing to determine the extent of the losses.
Mr Pitty said the massive numbers appear to be a response to the bushfires of 2019-20 where the swathes of burnt area further up the coast and south of Eden may have left a 'food desert'.
Counted numbers in Batemans Bay are minimal with around 700 flying foxes, while Mr Pitty said there had previously been huge numbers in the north and as many as eight camps around the Eurobodalla.
However, Mr Pitty said there were some positives with areas of the Bega Valley left largely untouched and providing a blooming food source for both colonies.
Mr Pitty reminds residents that grey-headed flying foxes are a threatened species and anyone concerned about protecting their fruit trees should use only 'wildlife-friendly' netting, which is white in colour and has a mesh size less than 5mm. "If you can put your finger through the holes then it is unsafe for wildlife including flying foxes and can lead to their injury and death," said Mr Pitty, adding to "make sure the netting is stretched taut over a frame or tied to the branches or the trunk, not just thrown loose over the tree".
Members of the public interested in joining in the regular monthly counts of flying foxes at the Glebe Wetlands in Bega or the Panboola Wetlands in Pambula should contact Hugh Pitty on 0414 525 761.
"New volunteers are most welcome to join this valuable citizen science project that is contributing data to the National Flying Fox Monitoring Program coordinated by the CSIRO."
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