Native Wildlife

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Grey-headed flying-fox

The grey-headed flying-fox, more commonly know as the 'fruit bat', is Australia's largest megabat and a protected species in NSW. Grey-headed flying-foxes are nocturnal mammals who live in camps containing hundreds to tens of thousands of animals. Flying-foxes roost in these camps during the day and are active during the night, flying out at sunset and often travelling 30-50km to forage for food. Flying-foxes are a keystone species and play an invaluable role in maintaining the health and biodiversity of our environment. Unlike smaller microbats, who use echolocation to find and feed on insects, flying-foxes use their eyes and ears to locate food. They exist on a diet of nectar, pollen and fruit. Grey-headed flying-foxes are particularly attracted to native trees such as eucalypts, banksias, figs and melaleucas (paperbark), however they will also resort to non-native food sources, such as cocos palm fruit, in times of food shortage. Many native Australian flowering trees produce their nectar at night, making the nocturnal flying-fox ideally suited for seed dispersal and pollination. Flying-foxes are excellent cross-pollinators, carrying seeds and pollen in their fur and droppings and dispersing them over long distances, ensuring a healthy and genetically robust ecosystem. After flying long distances throughout the night, flying-foxes will return to their camps before sunrise, where they will roost and rest for the day.

The Sutherland Shire is currently home to three flying-fox camps: Kareela, Kurnell Desalination Plant, and Camellia Gardens in Caringbah South. A fourth, temporary camp has been identified off  Captain Cook Drive in Cronulla, however this camp is presently unoccupied.

The risk of contracting disease from a flying-fox is low. A very small percentage (<1%) of wild flying-foxes carry the Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV). ABLV is found in the saliva of infected animals and can only be transmitted through a bite or a scratch. It is therefore strongly recommended that members of the public do not handle flying-foxes. ABLV cannot be transmitted through urine or faeces and, according to NSW Health, living, working or playing near a flying-fox camp does not pose a significant risk.

If do you come across an injured or dead flying-fox, please phone WIRES on 1300 094 737.  WIRES will send an appropriately vaccinated carer to rescue or attend to the animal.

For more information on flying-foxes and your health, please see NSW Health's flying-fox fact sheet.

Kareela Flying-fox Camp

Visit this page to learn more about past and present management of the Kareela Camp.

Report a flying-fox sighting to us

Snakes

The Sutherland Shire is home to many different species of snakes. Common non-venomous snakes found throughout the Greater Sydney region include diamond and carpet pythons and the green tree snake. Venomous species include the common brown, eastern tiger and red-bellied black. Snakes have a varied diet including small mammals, birds, reptiles and frogs. They can be found in a number of different environments, including grass and woodlands, wetlands, in roofs and high up in the branches of trees. Most snakes will instinctively avoid human contact, but may become aggressive if startled or threatened.

Snakes are a protected species throughout NSW and a permit is required to remove them. If you discover a snake on your property, do not approach it. Ensure children and pets remain at a safe distance. If it is safe to do so, note which direction the snake goes. Call one of the authorities below

  • If you need a snake removed from your property you can contact a licensed snake catcher for assistance.
  • The RSPCA provides advice on what to do if you find a snake in or around your house.
  • Report injured snakes to WIRES or alternatively the fire brigade or police.

If you or a family member are bitten by a snake, do not attempt to wash the site or remove the venom yourself. This can make it difficult for medics to identify the venom. Bandage the area firmly and call 000.

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Brushtail Possums

Common Brushtail Possums are one of the most readily recognisable marsupials found throughout Greater Sydney. Highly adapted to urban environments, it is not uncommon for Brushtail Possums to take up residency in backyards, making nests in tree hollows, and - occasionally - the odd roof cavity. Approximately the size of a domestic cat, Brushtails are grey in colour with an elongated snout, pink nose, large ears, long whiskers, and sharp claws used for climbing.

Brushtails are nocturnal animals, which means they are active at night and sleep during the day. In the wild they commonly feed on leaves, flowers and fruit. However, in urban areas they are known to be highly inventive and resourceful, feeding on whatever they can find, including household scraps, fruit trees and vegetable gardens.

Brushtail Possums are solitary creatures who live within a home range, which they mark out with their scent. While not typically aggressive, Brushtails are territorial and may attack another possum who encroaches on their range. For this reason, it is very important that Brushtail Possums are not removed or relocated from their territory. A Section 121C permit may be obtained from the NSW Department of Environment & Heritage to trap possums while structural repairs are completed to prevent possums accessing roofs etc. If a possum is causing issues on your property we recommend you contact WIRES on 1300 094 737 for referral to a licenced and reputable possum handler in your area.

Ringtail Possums

Ringtail Possums are smaller than their Brushtail counterparts and can be distinguished by their long, thin, white-tipped tails which they use as a fifth limb to help them climb and manoeuvre their way through the treetops. They are active at night and will sleep through the day in a spherical nest called a 'drey'. Ringtails feed on the leaves of both native and introduced trees, as well as flowers and fruit.

 

Want to help?

Like many native animals, possums have been impacted by urbanisation as much of their original habitat has been cleared for development. Possums,  parrots and other small fauna depend on tree hollows for a safe place to rest, away from predators. Possum boxes can be built, or purchased from the Council's Nursery, and installed in your backyard to provide a safe haven for possums and deter them from nesting in your roof or walls.

 

Please remember:

  • Possums are protected in NSW.  Any harm caused to them will attract significant penalties and/or prosecution.
  • Possums are territorial and must not be removed from your property.
  • A Section 121C permit may be obtained from the NSW Department of Environment & Heritage to trap possums while structural repairs are completed to prevent possums accessing roofs etc.
  • If you need to relocate a possum on your property, contact WIRES on 1300 094 737 for referral to a reputable possum handling service in your area.
  • Possum houses can be bought from Council's nursery for $50.00 if you need to re-home a possum on your property.

Magpies 

The Australian Magpie is a medium-sized black and white bird whose curious personality and cheerful, caroling song have established it as a backyard favourite. Magpies are an omnivorous bird whose diet consists mostly of small insects, lizards, frogs, meat scraps and grains. Fortunately, they are particularly fond of scarab beetles - a common lawn pest!

Magpies are highly protective of their young and may swoop people if they feel threatened. This behavior is particularly prominent during nesting season in spring and will usually only last for 3-4 weeks. If possible, take an alternate path during this time. Read more about how to protect yourself from swooping birds here.

Please remember:

  • Magpies are a protected species in NSW.
  • It is against the law to kill the birds, collect their eggs or harm their young. 
  • If you feel a magpie is a serious menace, report it to Council or National Parks and Wildlife Services.

Contact WIRES if you find an injured native animal

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Native Wildlife Blog

More information

Enquiries

9710 0333 or ssc@ssc.nsw.gov.au

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