Native Wildlife

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The Sutherland Shire is home to a wide variety of native wildlife, including several Threatened Species. All native birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals (except the dingo) are protected in NSW under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act). Threatened Species, such as the Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) and Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) are considered vulnerable to extinction in NSW and therefore afforded stronger levels of protection under state and - in the case of the Grey-headed Flying-fox - federal legislation.

As a rule, Council does not interfere with the natural behaviours of native wildlife. Where possible, we encourage residents to live alongside native animals, to enjoy their company, but avoid feeding them human 'convenience' foods such as bread and honey, which can impact on their health. Instead, residents can plant native trees and shrubs to attract birds and animals and create a natural food source. Bird baths and water dishes can make all the difference to a thirsty animal on a hot day. For more information on creating a haven in your backyard, read our blog post on Creating a Wildlife B&B.

 

 

 

Grey-headed Flying-fox

The Grey-headed Flying-fox, also known 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 at 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 at dawn, where they will roost and rest for the day.

BWilliams GHFF.JPG

 

The Sutherland Shire is currently home to three flying-fox camps: Kareela, Kurnell Desalination Plant, and the Camellia Gardens camp in Caringbah South. A fourth, temporary camp off  Captain Cook Drive in Cronulla has been previously identified, however this camp is presently unoccupied. Council have developed a flying-fox fact sheet to assist residents living near a flying-fox camp .

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.

 

Flying-fox Myths and FAQs

Myth: Flying-foxes roost/build nests in trees at night.

Fact: Flying-foxes are nocturnal animals who come to life at night when they fly out from their camps in search of food. A GHFF may fly up to 50km in a single night to find and feed on native blossoms and nectar before returning to large camps to roost for the day. They do not build nests, or roost in the evening. If you spot a flying-fox in your backyard at night, chances are there is a tree close by producing fruit or flowers. Flying-foxes will only be present as long as these trees are in fruit, and will move on from an area once the food source is depleted. In the majority of cases, impacts such as noise and droppings will also reduce or cease completely at this time.

 

Myth: Flying-foxes are aggressive and will swoop or scratch you without warning.

Fact: Flying-foxes are timid animals, and generally not aggressive towards humans or other animals. Most bites and scratches occur when untrained members of the public attempt to handle sick or injured flying-foxes who have been caught in nets, or are hurt and have come to the ground. NSW Health advises all unvaccinated people to avoid handling injured flying-foxes, and to contact WIRES (1300 094 737) if you encounter a dead or injured flying-fox on or near your property.

 

Myth: Flying-foxes droppings carry diseases that are dangerous to people and animals.

Fact: Australian Bat Lyssavirus is a virus that affects the central nervous system, similar to rabies. It is believed that a small percentage (<1%) of wild flying-foxes carry this virus. According to NSW Health, ABLV can only be transmitted to humans or animals via a bite or scratch from an infected animal. Contact or exposure to bat faeces, urine or blood do not pose a risk of exposure to ABLV, nor do living, playing or walking near bat roosting areas, as long as bats are not handled.

 

Myth: Flying-foxes cannot see well and navigate using sonar.

Fact: Unlike their smaller insect-eating relative the microbat, flying-foxes actually have excellent eyesight which they use, in conjunction with a great sense of smell, to navigate and seek out blossoms and fruit from a long distance.

 

FAQ: What’s that smell?

Answer: Contrary to popular belief, flying-foxes are actually very clean animals who groom themselves regularly. Flying-foxes have a clever way of inverting (i.e. turning right way up) when they go to the toilet to avoid soiling themselves. GHFF camps can have a strong earthy odour that some people find unpleasant, but this is not due to mess or poor hygiene. Rather it is produced by scent glands in their necks and shoulders and is a form of communication between males and females, mothers and babies. This scent is also used by males to mark their territory during breeding season (March – May). You may notice the scent is at its strongest at this time of year.

 

FAQ: Why doesn’t Council do something about the flying-foxes?

Answer: Flying-foxes are a nationally protected species and play a very important role in the ongoing health and regeneration of our native vegetation. Flying-foxes are now under threat due to loss of habitat and food sources caused by urban development and clearing. Council are active in managing amenity impacts that can arise from living near large flying-fox camps, however it is an offence to harm or kill a GHFF and such actions can attract substantial fines. For more information on the beneficial role that flying-foxes play in our environment, visit www.littleaussiebat.com.au.

 

Kareela Flying-fox Camp

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

Camellia Gardens Flying-fox Camp

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

Report a flying-fox sighting to us

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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.

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.

Sutherland Council Native Swooping Bird Fact Sheet (PDF 238kb)

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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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.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos

The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo is one of fourteen Australian native cockatoo species. It is a large white parrot with a distinctive long yellow crest that is used for visual communication. Other similar white cockatoos that you may see in the Shire include Long-billed Corellas and Little Corellas, however these species do not have a large crest and their bills are pale rather than dark grey. They also a lot more shy and quiet than Sulphur-crested Cockatoos.

Sulphur-crested cockies are a common Shire resident that can be seen - and heard! - feeding on the ground or in trees in pairs or flocks. They learn very quickly and will become quite tame if enticed with food. However, it is not advisable to feed them. Apart from not being good for their health, this species of cockatoo can be very noisy and destructive, so it is better for them and for you to enjoy their antics from a distance. 

Sutherland Shire Council Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Fact Sheet

Contact WIRES if you find an injured native animal

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Australian White Ibis

The Australian White Ibis is one of three native Australian ibis species. While they are sometimes disparagingly known as 'bin chickens' due to their habit of foraging in garbage bins for food, the Australian White Ibis is in fact a displaced species. They were originally found in grasslands and wet, marshy areas further inland. However, droughts and changes to water management regimes in their natural habitat forced many Australian White Ibis to investigate better feeding grounds closer to urban areas. They have settled in very well to city life and are now common in many urban areas. Sutherland Shire Council's Australian White Ibis Fact Sheet can provide you with more information about these impressive white birds.

Contact WIRES if you find an injured native animal

Image credit: Dr Richard Major, Australian Museum.

Native Wildlife Blog

More information

Enquiries

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

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