Victoria is home to many wildlife species that feed on fruit, including birds, bats (flying foxes) and possums.

As Victorian wildlife is protected by law, it is important to protect your backyard fruit trees from Victorian wildlife species that feed on it in a wildlife-safe way.

Ensure wildlife do not get entangled in fruit tree netting by using the correct, safe netting to protect your trees.

Animal Welfare Victoria has recently released its Harvest Without Harm campaign to raise awareness of changes to fruit netting requirements for Victorian households that came into effect from 1 September 2021. The Harvest Without Harm factsheet below provides information on what you need to do, including tips for compliant wildlife-friendly netting.

Harvest Without Harm (PDF, 6.1 MB)

Identifying the damage

The Bird and Flying-fox Damage to Orchard Fruit Guide is designed to help you identify which animal is damaging your fruit and provides suggestions to effectively manage it.

Bird and Flying-fox Damage to orchard fruit: an identification guide (DOC)
Bird and Flying-fox Damage to orchard fruit: an identification guide (PDF)

Harvest Without Harm: Protecting your fruit trees and wildlife

The use of inappropriate fruit tree netting is the leading cause of flying fox injury and death in Victoria. Netting with a large mesh size is more likely to entangle birds, possums or flying foxes. Their subsequent struggle to free themselves may cause deep cuts and strangulation, often leading to death.

To help protect wildlife from fruit tree netting, new provisions have been introduced under Victoria’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulations. The new provisions came into effect from 1 September 2021 and require that any netting used to protect household fruit trees, vegetable gardens or other fruiting plants must have a mesh size no greater than 5mm x 5mm at full stretch.

If you are looking to purchase new netting, you must purchase netting that meets these specifications to ensure you are compliant with the regulations.

Below are some additional tips for the safest ways to protect backyard fruit trees and ensure wildlife does not become entangled:

  • white netting should be used to make it easier for nocturnal animals to see and avoid at night
  • netting made from material with a strand diameter thicker than 500 microns or with a cross-weave design can help reduce injuries and fatalities
  • remove netting from trees once fruit has been harvested or is over-ripe
  • while using netting, check your trees daily to ensure no wildlife are entangled
  • pick fruit early and leave your tree un-netted
  • never throw netting loosely over trees – fix tightly to branches or tie onto trunk
  • consider netting selected branches only, rather than the entire tree
  • an alternative to netting is placing fruit bags over individual clusters of fruit - this reduces the risk of wildlife entanglement and leaves excess fruit available for hungry birds and flying foxes
  • thirty percent blockout shadecloth can also be used instead of netting, it is wildlife-safe and will not stop fruit from ripening.

Further advice on protecting fruit trees and wildlife, and helping wildlife trapped in tree netting, is available through Animal Welfare Victoria.

Page last updated: 01/12/21