Together with the NSW Government, we prepared a regional flying-fox camp management plan, with assistance from the local community.
The plan focuses on local flying-fox camps at Cocos Crescent Reserve and Karloo Street Reserve at Forster, Pacific Palms, Smiths Lake and Hawks Nest.
This management plan will guide flying-fox management at each camp and will help to reduce conflicts with adjacent residents.
Living next to flying-fox camps can be challenging at times for neighbouring residents as the camps can be noisy and smelly places.
The plan helps us to obtain approvals for on-ground works and supports us in applying for State and Federal funding.
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MidCoast Council Flying-fox camps
There are 18 known flying-fox camps in the MidCoast region. Five are located at least partly on Council land; within or adjacent to residential areas and are referred to as:
- Forster: Cocos Crescent Reserve Camp
- Forster: Karloo Street Reserve Camp
- Pacific Palms Camp
- Smiths Lake Camp
- Hawks Nest Camp
Select an accordian below to find out more information about each flying-fox camp.
Cocos Crescent Reserve is in Forster on Council owned land and covers an area of 1.4 ha. It is officially known as Bangalow Place Reserve; however, is better known as Cocos Crescent Reserve due to its prominent frontage along Cocos Crescent. This camp is located approximately 350 m west of the Karloo Street Reserve camp (discussed below). This reserve is surrounded by private land (residential lots) with a recently approved subdivision to the north which is currently nearing completion.
Flying-foxes were first recorded at Cocos Crescent Reserve in November 2018 and have occupied the camp on a semi-permanent basis since. The maximum number of flying-foxes officially recorded is 1700 individuals in August 2019, although local residents reported higher numbers. Normally there are <800 flying-foxes roost at the camp when present.
The Grey-headed Flying-fox is the main species recorded at this camp, although a small number of Black Flying-foxes have been recorded on occasions. No Little Red Flying-foxes have been observed at this camp. Use of the site as a maternity roost has not been observed to date.
The Karloo Street Reserve flying-fox camp is located on the eastern end of Karloo Street, with the camp often occurring on both sides of Karloo Street. The Karloo Street Reserve is Council owned land and is 21.2 ha in size. The reserve is surrounded by private land (residential lots) to the west, north and east with an approved subdivision to the south. The term Karloo Street Reserve also incorporates Kentia Drive Reserve and Lakeview Crescent reserve.
Anecdotal evidence suggests Grey-headed Flying-foxes started roosting at the Karloo Street Reserve in the 1990s. Since 2010, the camp has been occupied by flying-foxes on a semi-permanent basis, with the largest numbers recorded during summer and autumn.
The population size is variable with irregular peaks. On 15 April 2013, in excess of 125,000 animals were recorded, although these numbers were only present for a short period (a few days). As the camp population has exceeded 10,000 animals in consecutive years and is a recognised breeding site, the Karloo Street Reserve satisfies the criteria as a nationally significant Grey-headed Flying-fox camp.
The camp is mostly occupied by Grey-headed Flying-foxes, although there are infrequent sightings of both Little Red Flying-foxes and Black Flying-foxes.
The Pacific Palms camp is located on Council owned land, north of the Pacific Palms community centre and tennis courts. Other surrounding land includes residential land to the east, Wallis Lake to the west and Booti Booti National Park to the north.
This camp is irregularly occupied by relatively small numbers of flying-foxes (typically <2400). It is unclear when this camp was established, although monitoring as part of the National Flying-fox Monitoring Program at this site commenced in 2018.
Only Grey-headed Flying-foxes have been observed at this camp.
The Smiths Lake Camp is located on both private and Council owned land. The primary roost area is located south of Casson Street, with an overflow roost established on occasions north of Casson Street. It is surrounded by low density residential (village) land, with some tourism accommodation facilities.
There are conflicting reports of when the camp established. Some residents report the camp establishing in 2001, while others report the camp establishing prior to 1997. The National Flying-fox Monitoring Program results between 2011 and 2020 suggest the camp is occupied seasonally (not permanently). Flying-fox numbers have fluctuated with up to around 13,000 individuals observed.
The Grey-headed Flying-fox is the main species recorded at the site. A peak in flying-fox numbers was reported in the summer of 2007/08, coinciding with a large influx of Little Red Flying-foxes. Roost areas on both sides of Casson Street were occupied during this period.
Flying-foxes intermittently roost at the Hawks Nest Camp (Albatross Avenue Reserve) and adjacent private land. Approximately three quarters of the occupied private land is zoned E2 – Environmental Conservation, while the remaining quarter is zoned R2 – Low Density Residential. Other surrounding land includes residential land to the north, east and west, and Myall Lake National Park.
There is limited information available about when this camp established.
The Grey-headed Flying-fox is the main species observed the camp. Little Red Flying-foxes have also been observed. The camp is occupied seasonally.
Three types of flying-foxes are found in this part of NSW with Grey-headed Flying-fox and Little Red Flying-fox being most common within the MidCoast area. All three types are listed as protected species in NSW with the Grey-headed Flying-fox identified as threatened. Records show that Grey-headed Flying-fox may have numbered in the millions across the eastern states of Australia but the population is now estimated to be as low as 400 000.
All flying-fox species are nocturnal. They roost during the day in camps and travel at night to feed. These communal camps fluctuate in numbers and can range from a few hundred to thousands of individual animals.
Flying-foxes are a highly mobile species which play a very important ecological role within the Australian environment as they help pollinate plants and disperse seeds, which is critical to survival of native forests. Flying-foxes cover great distances in search of food and can travel over 50km in a single night. The amount of food within a 20-50km radius of a camp will influence the camp size.
Camps are generally seasonal as they are connected to the flowering of flying-fox food trees. However, because flowering and fruiting can vary in response to season and environmental conditions, the presence and size of camps are difficult to predict.
Individual flying-foxes travel great distances in search of flowering/ fruiting events and suitable roosting habitat. As such flying-foxes will travel along the eastern states of Australia from Victoria to the far north of Queensland. A Grey-headed Flying-fox was recorded using satellite tracking to have travelled around 500 kms in two nights!
Research is continuing on what conditions make flying-foxes camp at certain locations. While being close to food is a factor research suggests flying-foxes prefer to roost in vegetation with some or all of the following features:
- a closed canopy over 5 metres high
- dense vegetation with upper, mid and understorey layers
- within 500 metres of permanent water sources
- within 50 km of the coastline or at an elevation less than 65 m above sea level
- level ground (<5° incline)
- greater than one hectare in size to accommodate and sustain large numbers of flying-foxes.
Flying-foxes may move into urban areas in search of food and shelter, often in response to food shortages or loss of habitat.
A number of community engagement sessions were held throughout February 2021 to inform the community about the project and allow input and feedback on the different management options.
The first of the sessions was a Zoom online information session followed by pop-up consultation sessions on site at each camp, as well as an online survey ‘Flying-fox Engage’ that was open throughout February.
The pop-up information sessions were held at:
- Bangalow Place Reserve, Cocos Crescent, Forster on 9 February from 9.30am to 11.30am
- Karloo Street Reserve, Karloo Street, Forster on 9 February from 12pm to 2pm
- Pacific Palms Community Centre, The Lakes Way, Elizabeth Beach on 9 February from 3pm to 5pm
- Smiths Lake Park, Amaroo Drive, Smiths Lake on 10 February from 10am to 12pm
- Jean Shaw Koala Reserve, Ibis Avenue, Hawks Nest on 10 February from 2pm to 4pm
Council also engaged an online consultation tool, Flyingfoxengage, as an innovative consultation method for the Council-wide flying-fox camp management plan, to support the development of the draft Plan.
The Flyingfoxengage online consultation tool was launched on 1st February 2021 with the website remaining open for submissions until March 12th 2021. During this consultation period, the Flyingfoxengage website received 139 valid submissions. Based on these submissions, subsidising property modification to reduce flying-fox impacts was cumulatively ranked by users as their most preferred management.