Is it a bird? is it a plane? No, it’s a population of a species under pressure.
Greater Shepparton City Council has been forced to close a Tatura walking track to protect the flying foxes that call it home.
The population of the winged creatures is now estimated to be almost double that of town residents: about 10000.
The northern loop track of Cussen Park is now closed to prevent disturbance of the flying foxes’ camp and avoid them needing to move to less ideal places to live in town. It also aims to prevent any potential health risk from coming into contact with the animals.
‘‘The closure zone will be adjusted, as required, in line with camp expansion or movement,’’ a statement read.
Flying foxes are protected by law in Australia, with the grey-headed flying fox listed as vulnerable under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.
This means attempts to relocate them are not permitted without approval from relevant government departments.
‘‘Flying foxes are under enormous pressure and there has been a significant decline in numbers as a result of loss of their prime feeding habitat and disruptions to their camp sites,’’ a council statement read.
‘‘We are privileged to have them in our midst and we need to protect them while they are here.’’
The population at the camp in Cussen Park consists mainly of grey-headed flying foxes, however there are a number of red-headed flying foxes in the camp as well, according to the council.
It is possible that residents of Tatura and surrounding areas may hear the flying foxes at night feeding in trees that are in blossom at present, the council said.
People are encouraged to keep an eye out for path closures and avoid disturbing flying foxes while they are roosting and to not come into contact with animals.
The council anticipates the current cold snap and reduced food options will see the flying foxes migrating to warmer climates in the next few months.