The Bats of Bairnsdale

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Publication: Bairnsdale Advertiser

Publication Date: Wednesday, 21st July, 2015.

A sigh of relief from a problem bat colony may have finally come for Bairnsdale residents, as East Gippsland Shire began efforts to relocate the bats yesterday morning.

The Shire was given dispensation by the Federal Department of Environment to begin removing 50 metres of dying poplar trees along the Mitchell River, before breeding season begins on August 1st.

The move is part of a three-stage plan to remove 200 metres of trees. The first stage was planned to begin in July 2013, but halted, as the bats did not relocate for winter.

The council obtained permission to disperse the bats so work could begin. Shire CEO, Gary Gaffney, said dispersal methods would be non-lethal, involving the use of loud noises.

“Removal of these trees makes the Mitchell River walking path a much safer environment for its users,” he said.

Residents like John Glynn hope the works will encourage the bats’ relocation. He also said the poplars themselves pose a danger to residents.

“The trees are dead and falling over, so we want them gone,” he said.

“Two years ago we had 80,000 bats in this small area, and it was a problem,” he said.

“Bat numbers have skyrocketed. There were only 200 in 2002, then 80,000 two years ago, and 60,000 last year.”

But some residents are not so hopeful. Long-time resident Peter Gardner believes the tree removal may make matters worse.

“I am not so sure of the Shire policy,” he said.

“The bats will probably just shift closer to the CBD along the river.”

Despite the works beginning, Glynn thinks more needs to be done. He said the Federal and State government should provide funding to research why the bats are choosing to inhabit dangerous areas, like the poplar trees along the Mitchell River.

“If something adverse is happening in these forest areas, we need to know why,” he said.

“We need the Federal and State governments to provide funding for research into why the bats are leaving these perfectly healthy areas.”

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