PYTHONS may be the answer to ridding Burdekin Park of bats, according to Singleton councillor Ruth Rogers.
She has suggested putting the large non-venomous snakes up park trees to eat some of the estimated 20,000 flying foxes and encourage others to move on.
The bats have been a growing concern for many Singleton residents during the past decade as the number camping in Burdekin Park has increased.
Their potential health risks, noise, smell, urination and defecation have largely prevented human use of the park and forced the town’s annual Anzac Day services next week to be moved to Singleton army camp and Singleton Civic Centre green for the first time.
Bats, which pollinate food and trees, are protected by state and federal government legislation.
They are believed to have moved to the park because their natural habitat is being wiped out and their numbers are dropping because of stress-related disease.
Cr Rogers was prompted to speak out when she was told this week that the bat colony was spreading to roost at Singleton Public School, Uniting Church land in Hunter Street and trees near All Saints Court.
She said: “I know people may laugh, but I think the use of natural predators should seriously be considered because the bat problem is getting worse.
“Pythons have been used successfully in the Northern Territory where they put them up trees and wrapped wire around the trunks to stop them coming down because they don’t like crawling over anything rough.
“We could also try goannas, they’re another predator of bats.”
Cr Rogers said she was concerned that the council had spent many thousands of dollars of ratepayers money over the years unsuccessfully trying to solve the issue.
“That’s not a criticism of Alan Fletcher (the council’s acting assets director) or his team as they have done a great job, but they can’t get around the red tape of state and federal governments,” Cr Rogers said.
“If we used pythons though, they’d get some bats and the rest would send out a message of danger in the park that would stop others coming here.
“The only thing is, we may shift the problem elsewhere, to the hospital grounds for instance or people’s backyards.”
Cr Rogers that while she did not have all the answers, she believed something had to be done to stop them gradually roosting throughout Singleton.
Mr Fletcher told The Argus yesterday that the number of bats roosting in areas outside Burdekin Park, such as the public school, had decreased in comparison with last week’s numbers.
“There is no easy answer for the bats, I attended a meeting in Maitland this week about the problems down there but I heard nothing new that we haven’t considered in Singleton,” he said.
“Generally we’re a lot better off than Maitland as they estimate they have about 40,000 in backyard trees, whereas ours are in the park and, as bad as that is, at least there’s a road between the park and people’s homes.
“In terms of dealing with bats, Maitland is in a similar situation to where Singleton was a few years ago, having engaged a consultant to consider options that include relocating them and removing trees.”
Mr Fletcher said Singleton Council was keeping an eye on the situation and was managing Burdekin Park trees without considering bat relocation at this stage.
“Relocation is difficult, in terms of onerous approval conditions and costs and the results are not guaranteed, the risk of failure is high and even if they are moved on there is an on-going requirement to monitor and keep moving them on,” he said.
State environment and heritage minister Robyn Parker said officials in her office were continuing to work with commonwealth officials to align processes for dealing with community and council applications to disturb bat colonies.
She was also still investigating the conservation status of flying-foxes.
Mrs Parker’s media advisor Steve Warnock said Mrs Parker recently announced a grant of almost $89,000 to restore bat habitat in the Hunter region.