THE bats are back in town and causing a stir at Warrnambool’s botanic gardens.
Gardens curator John Sheely said a large number of bats had arrived earlier than in past years.
“They came about four or five weeks ago,” he said.
“They normally come in April, but I’m not sure why they are early this year.”
The grey-headed flying foxes have made a temporary home in the gardens and Mr Sheely said numbers had increased on last year.
“They are roosting in a couple of trees,” he said.
“The London plane tree seems to be suffering a bit from over-roosting in the top part of the tree. It’s too early to say yet if they will ringbark the tree.
“They are stripping the foliage.”
The bats are also roosting in a nearby Norfolk Island pine tree that had previously been damaged by corellas.
Warrnambool Botanic Gardens president Pat Varley said the bats had been coming to the gardens for more than 10 years.
“It’s uncommon as they are at the southern limit of their natural environment. They have lost a lot of their habitat in Queensland and New South Wales,” she said.
Mrs Varley said the bats have also been seen in the Melbourne, Geelong and Bendigo botanic gardens.
“They don’t feed in the gardens,” Mrs Varley said.
“They go out at night. They might go up to 15 kilometres away to feed.”
The bats are expected to leave when the weather gets colder.
“Normally they leave in the autumn,” Mrs Varley said.
Even though the bats are causing damage, Mr Sheely said they were a drawcard for visitors.
“They’re proving quite popular,” he said.
They do not pose a threat to humans. However, they are best viewed from a distance and not harassed or handled. They are most active at dusk but can be seen during the day