Saturday, 12 June 2010

bats and dogs

Penny has just been outside for her last 'toilet stop' of the day, at 11:30 pm. It beats me how we came to train her to wait for a human to accompany her outside, no matter what the weather. (It's co-o-ld out there!)

And out there I discovered that it isn't a powerful owl in our garden, as I so optimistically thought. It's at least one very big flying fox. One took off from the tree just now, and obligingly circled the garden right above our heads, its big black wings beating the air with a whooshing sound. (I should have known our visitor wasn't an owl, because they fly silently, but I really wanted it to be an owl!)

Of course, being a champion worrier, I then remembered that these creatures carry a the deadly hendra virus. As far as I know, so far it has mainly caused horse deaths, though it can infect humans through horses, having caused some human deaths already.

I don't like reading that many new diseases these days are crossing species, possibly because we are crowding into the natural environments of wildlife.

I've read that
The disease appears to spread from flying foxes (fruit bats) to horses, especially during the fruit bat breeding season (spring to early summer). The flying fox is the natural host, that is it remains unaffected by the virus. It is suspected that horses may become infected by eating food contaminated with bat urine or birthing products.

Transmission from horse to horse does sometimes occur, probably through direct contact with the respiratory secretions of an infected animal.
If it can cross to a horse, who's to say it can't affect a dog? Penny loves to dash out to that part of the garden in the morning to eat possum poo, which I've never thought would be bad for her, seeing possums are vegetarians.

But now I'll try to stop her doing that, I think, just in case it's bat poo and not possum poo. (Maybe I need to do some research about what bat poo looks like. I wonder if bats don't produce poo - most of the sites I looked at only mention urine.)

I think fruit bats are gorgeous-looking and I've never objected to their being moved to our area to roost. But it's funny - now that I see them in our tree, just above our heads, each night, I don't feel so positive about their presence. We've known they visit our garden, because they eat the skins off our lemons on occasion, leaving the poor naked fruit hanging there all bare to the elements. And they squeal and argue with each other in our giant lemon-scented gum when it's in flower. But seeing bats eighty feet up in the air isn't the same thing as having them ten feet up.


Maggie and Mitch said...

We have bats that live behind the shutters on our house. Mom HATES bats because they're gotten into our house before! YUK!!!
Their poo is called guano and they say it's excellent for the garden but we've never tried that before.

Love ya lots,
Maggie and Mitch

Anonymous said...


It's possums who are eating the skin of the lemons, not bats. Bats pulp their food, swallow the juice and spit out the fibre. Lemon rind gives possums lovely breath :-)

Also Hendra is not a concern for your dog - I am a wildlife rehabber and like many rehabbers I have both dogs that live with me and bats that come and stay. There has been no transmission. People get hendra from horses when they tend to horses that have hendra.

Keep up the worrying, it's important work.


Another Champion Worrier

Mary said...

Parlance, I seem to remember being told, on a visit to Darwin, that fruit bats don't have bowels, they regurgitate the waste while hanging upside down. So it will still be on the ground but probably not in a solid form - I hope.

curator said...

I like fruit bats too. But I do hope they don't inadvertently make any horse, dog or person sick. Hope your winter is going well!

Serendipity said...

Actually if you look closely, they do have quite cute looking faces, don't they?

On the safe side, better to keep Penny off their poo. Wouldn't want her to be sick.

Oh yes, Happy's born on summer solstice :-) When is Penny's birthday? :-)

parlance said...

Serendipity, someone told me she thinks fruit bats don't do poo! They regurgitate our of their mouths what they don't need. I don't know if that's true, but I guess we'll stay away from any strange stains on the decking under that tree.

Penny has been assigned a birthday in November, due to the mysterious circumstances surrounding her birth. ie, she's a mutt of dubious origins!

parlance said...

Curator, I guess we're all walking around full of germs and viruses, ready to pass them on, so I'll just hope no scary diseases eventuate.

parlance said...

Mary, thanks for that info. I think I'll be dreaming tonight about that regurgitated waste.

parlance said...

Anonymous, that's great to get such detailed info. Thanks! I do realise that worrying is an important task, and I'm on the job night and day, basically, but I'll downgrade the bat-worrying, so there's room for whatever new worry tomorrow brings.

Do you know if it's true that these bats don't poo?

parlance said...

Magggie and Mitch, I'm thinking that these fruit bats are different from the ones you're referring to, because these ones are actually flying foxes, and if I'm right, they navigate differently from bats. I think they don't have sonar, for instance.

Maybe, if Anonymous ducks back into this discussion we can get this point straight.

parlance said...

Maggie and Mitch, I forgot to say that I love bats. (Though I remember having one flying around in our house when I was little and we kids had the idea the bat would get caught in our hair and we were all terrified. I don't know where that idea comes from.)

Honey the Great Dane said...

Ohhhh....I have a soft spot for fruit bats - I think they are sooooooo cute! Squeeeeee!

But it is worrying about the dieseases. That's always the problem with wild animals living near us (or us encroaching on their territory, really!)

I didn't even know that possums are vegetarians, which is a relief as Honey likes to eat any possum poo she can find too! But like you, I have no idea if that IS possum poo as I don't really know what it looks like - just assume...

Anyway, sounds like Penny is relatively safe from all the other comments - but maybe stopping her from eating poo - any poo - is a good practice in general anyway! :-)


parlance said...

Hsin-YI, I probably should be embarrassed (but I'm not, lol) to admit that Penny has eaten possum poo from day one. It's readily recognisable, as it's in neat little cylindrical pellets. I thought she probably ate it because she got some sort of vitamins from it. But who knows?

Serendipity said...

Aah a November pup! You know, when I first took Happy home, I thought her birthday was 28th. Only found out few years later it wasn't LOL. Thankfully, dogs do not keep track of dates, or do they?