Bats In Adelaide

Updated November 29, 2020

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 something we South Australians now need to know.

In a nutshell, it’s this: only experienced and vaccinated carers should handle bats. Why that is I’ll explain below, and afterwards I’ll tell you who to call if you find a bat. Pay attention! There’s a quiz at the end.

The New Bats In Adelaide

Grey-headed Flying-foxes established their first permanent camp in Adelaide in 2010. Currently it numbers around 20 000.

The colony is mostly comprised of immigrants, coming to Adelaide as part of a bigger movement southward in Australia. Just like Rainbow Lorikeets once did, flying foxes have moved in to take advantage of the 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.

Grey-headed Flying-fox Facts

The Grey headed flying fox is nationally threatened, so every new colony is important. It’s suspected  that clearing of food trees in the Eastern states has contributed to their arrival in South Australia. You could liken them to refugees.

Flying foxes are easily caught in poorly placed fruit tree netting. Please make sure the net you buy has holes that are too small to fit your fingers through, and fit it tightly to the tree. Trailing pieces and gaps will only increase the risk. The last thing you want is a flying fox caught in the net (see below for what to do).

Flying foxes mostly feed on blossom, nectar and native fruits so they aren’t a major threat to orchardists or fruit growers. Instead, they play an important role in the pollination of native plants.

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.

The good news is that a 2020 study found no evidence of lyssavirus in 301 samples taken from the Adelaide colony.

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. No transmission has occurred directly from bats.

Evidence of past Hendra virus infection has been found in 43% of the bats here in South Australia, though no spread to horses has been documented. It’s probably spread by grazing underneath trees where bats feed or roost. The horses can 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. Therefore, if you have a horse within 20km of Adelaide:

  • Ask your vet about vaccination
  • Avoid feeding or grazing horses under fruiting or flowering trees

Bat faeces and urine are probably not directly hazardous to humans, dogs or cats.

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 (08) 84861139 or their 24-hour Helpline on 8289 0896
  • 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.

Quiz Time!

Q: What’s the best way to pick up a bat?

A: By the handle, of course!

Sorry. I’ve been told I don’t do enough puns.

Interested in what other diseases we share with animals? Visit our page on what you can catch from your pets.

Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.

31 Replies to “Bats In Adelaide”

  1. I live in Andrews Farm there are bats flying around in the big Gum trees on an oval along Commodore Parade. They are quite large flying in and out of trees in people’s yards late at night. They start at around 10.30pm , their screech at first is a little surprising till you see them flying overhead in the my yard going from palm tree to gum trees. They are quite big.

  2. Hi Andrew,
    Some bats have started roosting in the tree next door (it’s right over our fence) and they’re driving my dogs bonkers. What can we do to resolve this situation? Can we relocate the bats?

    1. Hi Amy. No you can’t, but your dogs should get used to them in time. I found the bats unpleasant at first too, but now I really enjoy seeing them flapping around up there.

  3. What can I do to help them survive
    I think I have a small family in my tree at Christie Downs
    I have pets dog and cat
    I love bats
    Honestly I thought it was ring tail possum but tonight watching winged critters
    Ps always wanted to be involved in bat rescue

    1. Hi Anna. Fauna Rescue are always are looking for volunteers, and I’m sure they would be very happy to hear from you. I’ll look into other options and post more groups in this comment as I find them.

  4. Hey everyone I live in hackham West southern suburbs and my neighbour has a few fruit trees i have seen 2 decent sized bats getting in his fruit trees for the passed 3years they keep dropping urine when they fly off and keep coming back. not only bats possoms too. I am trying to grow fruit how can I stop them from coming near my trees?

  5. Hey, from the last week there has been a few bats in the gumtree behind my backyard… I hear them all night.

    I am located west… around the westlakes area.

    Should I do something about this?


    M O

    1. Hi Manuel. Bats in Adelaide gum trees are usually just feeding on blossom or roosting and quite normal at night.

  6. I was at the Fringe on Saturday night and the bats started to fly over about 8 20pm. But they kept coming and coming. They were flying east to west. We went into the show about 8 40pm and they were still going over. I have lived in Darwin and this is almost the amount you would have seen up there. I was born here and in my 64 years I have never seen them like this.

  7. Hi Andrew
    I have just moved house and I have what I believe is a Willow Myrtle in my yard. I see a handful of these flying foxes each night in the myrtle. Do I need to be worried about my dogs walking in their faeces and then walking in the house? I suppose it is no different to bird or possum poop!?
    Is there a good resource for further information on the bats generally?

  8. Saw my little refugees last night in the big gum tree outside the house. I’ll ask them to give my love to the lions…,

  9. Hi there,
    I’m just a little worried my mother has pine trees in her backyard. Do they hide in there during the day? I’m worried as you can’t see in the pine trees and worried there are bats sleeping during the day as Mum children bump the tree all day. Should I be concerned of LBV.

    1. Hi Trish. They don’t seem to prefer pine trees more than any other. A good policy for all parents is to educate their children about bats the same way we do about discarded syringes: don’t touch, tell a parent.

    2. Hi Andrew,
      Thanks for getting back to me. Do they usually sleep in trees individually or in large groups? We are staying in Seacliff Adelaide at the moment. Just worried as we can’t see what’s hiding inside the tree, so it’s not that they are playing deliberately just worried from
      Bumping the trees or brushing against them
      They would get bitten or scratched without knowing. Also my son is non verbal so he wouldn’t know. Is there any chance they hide in cold weather?

      1. Fruit bats roost in colonies, and travel out at night to feed. There is an extremely low risk to people just from the bats being in their trees. It’s only direct contact we’re advising against, and even this is rare.

  10. It seems to me that we are meant to ‘love’ these new arrivals. They are in my gum trees eating the flowers that I planted for the honey eating birds. They land in my huge white mulberry tree and devour all the fruit then fly off seeing and pooing over my outdoor area and vege patch. There urine is so acidic it burns the veges. I am so upset that they are being accepted like this. I have to hose down areas for fear of my grandchildren getting sick and have decided not to grow the veges anymore as I can’t eat them. They are a novelty maybe but they are also destructive. How long before the wattlebirds that live in my garden move on because there food source is stripped bare.

    1. Hi Barbara. I can perfectly understand what you say, and I am constantly surprised that I haven’t heard more complaints from Adelaide Hills fruitgrowers. However, they are here to stay and so we have to learn to live with and possibly even love our new arrivals!

  11. I live in parafield gardens. There are many in the trees in my street. Their yellow poop is all over our driveway and my car unfortunately. They are so loud at night and they are huge!! Some of them are really really big! On any given night I can hear more than just 1 or 2 but a huge bunch of them feeding and we often spot many different ones a night. Easily 12 or more of them. They are cool to see but yeah, I wouldn’t want to get up close in a hurry lol

  12. Ive recently discovered at least 4 bats in my large Gumtree in my front yard they are very noisy. I’m hoping they don’t decide to Roost in my tree and then bring more of their friends to visit. I’m at Munno Para West that’s more than 20 k’s from the city.

    1. Hi Michelle. They haven’t established a second colony in Adelaide yet and you’d be very unlucky if it were yours!

    2. I live in Paralowie and for the past two nights have had fruit bats in the gum trees just down the road. I didn’t know they travelled this far away from the Botanic Gardens, but as Michelle lives in Munno Para West, I guess they do!

  13. Working at this years fringe, i see the botanic gardens bat colony all leaving their trees, from about 8.20, and all heading East. Why all East ?. Is it like when bats exit a cave ?…they all exit to the left.

  14. I live at Dernancourt SA near the river Torrens.
    I see hundreds (probably thousands) of bats flying east towards Athelstone every night when night light is fading.
    I assume they are coming from the Zoo and Botanical Gardens area.
    I assume they might be heading to the Gorge at Athelstone – I would be interested to know if anyone has tracked the bats movement?

    1. Hi Paul. Yes, there is only one colony so they should all be coming from the zoo where there are in excess of 20,000 individuals. It is said that their movements range up to 20 km from the city in search of food each night.

  15. Hi Andrew thanks for the information.I see and hear a couple of flying foxes every morn.while walking one of your clients.Julian the beagle.they seem to roost in a couple of tall trees in our area of Prospect.

  16. We have a lot of large bats each night in the gum trees in the backyard. Is their urine or poo dangerous to my two jack Russell’s. We live in Clarence Park S.A. Are they a danger to my dogs.

    1. Hi Rose. Bats are unlikely to be dangerous unless directly handled or via infection from horses. There is no known risk to dogs. Although bats are new to us here in South Australia, it’s worth noting that bats have always been common on the east coast. If there was a problem we’d almost certainly know of it by now.

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