Bats In Adelaide

There’s a new sound in the suburbs of Adelaide at night. I hear it most evenings in my gum tree. It’s the sound of fruit bats.

With them comes a new danger. Only experienced and vaccinated carers should handle bats. Read later what to do if you find a bat.

The New Bats In Adelaide

Grey-headed Flying-foxes established their first permanent camp in Adelaide in 2010. Currently it numbers around 10,000.

The colony is mostly comprised of immigrants, coming to Adelaide as part of a bigger movement southward in Australia. Just like Rainbow Lorikeets did, flying foxes have followed suitable food trees and shrubs planted by us. They’re here to stay.

However, we’re at the limit of their tolerable climate range. During harsh summer temperatures, many adults and young pups are found on the ground with heat stress. These are mostly the bats you might find and want to help.

The Danger From Bats

Bats carry viruses that can infect and even kill people. The chance of infection from handling a single bat is very low but you need to know the risk.

Australian Bat Lyssavirus

ABL is a rabies virus carried by most bat species, including microbats. It is transmitted by bites or by secretions such as tears or saliva. Three people are known to have died from ABL in Australia, the last in 2013.

Wild animals look cute, but they don’t want to be handled and will bite. If you get bitten by a bat, wash and disinfect the area well, and contact your doctor. You will probably need post-exposure rabies immunoglobulin injections. This, by the way, is the same if you get bitten by any animal in countries with ‘regular’ rabies, such as Indonesia.

Hendra Virus

Hendra virus has killed at least four people, all of whom had close contact with infected horses. Two were vets, Dr Ben Cunneen in 2008, and Dr Alister Rodgers in 2009 who attended the sick horses.

Hendra virus has been found in bats but not yet in people here in South Australia. It’s spread to horses from bat faeces and urine found underneath trees where bats feed or roost. The horses then get a severe disease with respiratory or neurological signs and 70% mortality.

Since 2012, an equine Hendra virus vaccine appears to have had great success in reducing the number of fatalities. All 19 affected horses since that date were unvaccinated. If you have a horse:

  • Ask your vet about vaccination
  • Avoid feeding or grazing horses under fruiting or flowering trees within 20km of Adelaide

What To Do If You Find A Bat In Adelaide

  •  Do not attempt to handle the bat, especially flying foxes
  • Call Fauna Rescue SA’s bat helpline on 0474 204 617 or their 24-hour Helpline on 8289 0896
  • Another alternative is Adelaide Bat Care on 0422 182 443
  • If advised, microbats may be picked up with thick gloves as their teeth are quite small
  • Veterinary care is best arranged through the rescuer as your local vet is unlikely to be vaccinated

Where to see Bats in Adelaide

Bats are cool, and no danger if we leave them alone. Would you like to take a look?

The next time you’re at a game on a warm evening, watch the buzzing insects around the lights. You’ll see something flitter and flutter through the beam. These are one of around 8 species of insectivorous bats, or microbats, quietly going about their job of keeping bug numbers down. If you listen closely you can just hear their echolocating squeaks.

Flying foxes are even easier. The Adelaide parklands colony can be found in the pines near Frome Road south of the Zoo. They’re hanging upside down, high up, and resting far away from danger. Each evening they head out in search of food. Then, like me, you may hear their chattering in the trees or see a dark shape flap overhead. That’s no bird.

Related: What you can catch from animals

Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours of lodging.


By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on Facebook and Twitter. Like or follow our page or subscribe via email to read the latest.

Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

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‘Emergency Care’ (details below)

How to Tell Reverse Sneezing from Choking

  • Reverse sneezing causes minimal distress and gums remain pink
  • It can usually be stopped if you call or distract a dog
  • The dog is 100% fine immediately before and afterwards

If in doubt, see a vet immediately. True choking is often fatal. No vet will criticise you for being careful, even if there is nothing wrong.

Now dive deeper… Continue reading “Reverse Sneezing in Dogs”

Should My Pet Have Blood Work?

anaesthetic pet bloods

Blood testing in dogs and cats isn’t simply a case of ‘more is better’. It can be lifesaving but it can also occasionally bring harm. The decision to do it is by no means as black and white as it seems.

I’m going to use the evidence and my experience to help you decide if blood tests are a good idea for your pet. I’ll start by answering the question: when are blood tests useful? Then I’ll discuss the downsides.

Continue reading “Should My Pet Have Blood Work?”