Myths about flying foxes

Myths about flying foxes cause many people to fear them. However:

  • Flying foxes will not swoop to attack humans
  • They will not get caught in the hair of a passer-by
  • If left alone, they are not dangerous to humans

Flying foxes and disease

Any native animal can carry disease or cause injury if not treated properly. Flying foxes are known to carry Australian bat lyssavirus and Hendra virus, however, if people do not handle bats there is little to no risk of infection.

If bitten or scratched by a flying fox, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and contact a doctor immediately to be vaccinated. Vaccination as soon as possible after being bitten or scratched is extremely important, as it can prevent lyssavirus from occurring.

As with other native animals, flying foxes should not be handled except by authorised carers or officers. Contact our Customer Service Centre on 136 186.

For more information about managing the risk of disease to humans, contact the Department of Health, or consult the Better Health Channel.

Injured flying foxes and power lines

After feeding, flying foxes may rest on nearby power lines. As they spread their wings to take flight, the tips of their wings can make contact with live wires, resulting in electrocution.

If you find an electrocuted flying fox alive on the ground do not touch the animal: a small percentage of flying foxes carry diseases including Australian Bat Lyssavirus and Hendra virus.

Cover the flying fox with a towel, cardboard box or washing basket and contact a vaccinated Wildlife Carer or vet to collect the animal:

Wildlife Victoria: 1300 094 535 or 0417 380 687
AWARE: 0412 433 727 (east)
BADGAR: 1300 223 427 (west)
Help for Wildlife Ltd: 0477 600 591
WRIN: 0419 356 433

The most important thing to remember is your own safety:

  • Do not assume a flying fox is dead – treat the situation carefully. If the flying fox is on the ground, use a shovel to gently move the animal
  • Never attempt to touch a live flying fox (unless you are trained and/or inoculated)
  • Never try to rescue or touch an animal caught in power lines

For further information, see the fact sheet:

What to do when an electrocuted grey-headed flying fox is found (PDF, 410.1 KB)
What to do when an electrocuted grey-headed flying fox is found (RTF, 887.5 KB)

What to do if a flying fox roosts in your yard

It is an offence to harass, disturb or hurt wildlife in Victoria.

If a flying fox chooses to roost in your yard, don't disturb it, as this will only scatter it to an adjoining property. Residential yards don't make comfortable roost sites for flying foxes and it is likely that it will leave that night or after several days.

If left alone, flying foxes pose very little risk to people or pets.

However, if the flying fox stays for more than a week continuously day and night or if you have more than 50 roosting in your yard at any one time, call the DELWP Customer Service Centre on 136 186.

Departmental officers, Parks Victoria officers and local council staff will monitor any build-up of flying foxes in local parks and gardens.

Flying foxes, gardens and fruit trees

Flying foxes feed at night in the trees in backyards, streets and parks throughout the suburbs of Melbourne.

It is highly likely that private gardens with a food source are already visited by flying foxes and residents aren't aware of it. Flying foxes usually do not cause significant damage to trees that they feed in.

Apart from dropped blossoms or fruit on the ground, there may be little sign that they have been there. DELWP receives very few complaints about flying foxes in residential gardens.

Small fruit trees can be protected by using wildlife-safe netting (holes of 5m x 5m or smaller) stretched over a tree or frame. Individual fruit or clusters of fruit can be covered with fruit sacks, smaller nets, brown paper bags or fertiliser bags and harvested when ripe.

For more tips and information about wildlife-safe netting, please see Wildlife and fruit trees.

Fruit damage

In their natural habitat, flying foxes feed on the blossoms, nectar, fruit and occasionally leaves of native plants such as eucalypts, tea-trees, grevilleas, lilly pilly species and figs.

Flying foxes will also take or damage ripening stone and pome fruit (such as apples and pears) in orchards, particularly during periods of shortage of their preferred food.

Other animals such as parrots, lorikeets, honeyeaters, other birds and possums will also cause damage to these fruits.

It is important to determine which animal is causing the damage before planning an appropriate damage minimisation strategy.

See Wildlife and fruit trees for more information on protecting backyard fruit trees.