Rescues can take place all year round when there are Flying-foxes in the area. When a large number congregate for the birthing season between October to December, this is when dedicated volunteer carers are particularly busy attending calls for help from the public, stepping in to foster the orphans through to release.
Orphans are usually offered dummies (pacifiers) to imitate their natural behaviour in the wild where the flightless baby clings to the mother's body and attaches to one of her underarm nipples. Baby Flying-foxes share a very close bond with their mothers and are completely dependent for the first few weeks of their lives, clinging constantly for food, warmth and security.
Above: Grey-Headed Flying-fox sucking a dummy
Every night during those early weeks the mother carries her young with her on nightly expeditions to find food. The baby clings to its mother's belly and underarm nipple during flight (photo below).
- Photos courtesy Nick Edards
Mishaps and accidents during these expeditions sometimes result in the baby becoming separated or orphaned. The most common situations in which this can occur are outlined below:
The burden of carrying the rapidly growing baby on her nightly feeding expeditions poses additional risk particularly if the mother stops to rest on powerlines. Although the mother is invariably electrocuted, the baby usually survives. All bats seen on powerlines between the months of October to December are potentially mothers carrying young - which can be hidden in the folds of her wings. All hanging bodies on powerlines during these months need to be investigated thoroughly. If you see a bat on powerlines, please check to see if there is a baby and report the pole number and street name to Energex on 131253.
Energex retrieving dead mother with live baby from powerlines
Mothers flying with their young at night often get caught on barbed wire when searching for food. The outcomes for both mother and baby will differ depending on how long the mother has been caught, and the extent of her injuries. In some cases the mother and baby are released together, or both need to come into care. Unfortunately a common scenario is the mother is dead or dying and the baby is orphaned.
Occasionally a baby bat is found all by itself on a bush or tree or on the ground, calling out or crying for its mother. There are sometimes opportunities to reunite the baby with its mother if it was dropped accidentally by her and she is seen in the area calling to her young one.
Fruit tree netting
Mother Flying-Foxes are often tempted by the lure of an easy meal in a backyard fruit tree, resulting in either mother or baby, or both, becoming entangled in netting.
If a lactating female is found dead or unable to be released due to her injuries, we are faced with the sad fact that any dependent young will die from starvation back in the colony.
Far fewer baby microbats come into care when orphaned and when they do, the most common cause is due to roost site disturbance. Occasionally they are found on the ground, presumably dropped by their mothers.
Relocation of house-dwelling bats cannot be conducted until babies are independently flying (around February/March).
Right: Microbat baby (Mormopterus loriae) born in care and approximately seven hours old