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Flying Fox Management

Pest Flying Foxes can be a costly problem

Not only do they take the fruit but they can also damage trees through heavy landings or shear weight of numbers on branches.

Static Deterrents

Distress calls, lights, smells and tastes, sub lethal shocks etc are often the "great white hope" and are generally thwarted, by the ability most animals have of learning to ignore, harmless unsophisticated threats.


Often comes with an exclusive price tag, growers can often not afford, either in labor or costs. Flying foxes need to drop before they can start flying, once they land on a net, they need to crawl off, often causing them to become tangled or crawl through tick infested grass to climb to safety. Nets can often cause permanent injury or death to flying foxes. Nets can also produce unwanted change to the micro-climate and ecology beneath them.


It is the most common method of animal behavior modification, used for centuries by domestic pet owners, circus's, security guards, police etc . Training of wild and old animals is also well documented. Vigilance Technologies has spent the last 10 years training birds to keep away from fruit crops. The flying fox has been shown to be more intelligent than most birds. This should however make it more amenable to training. We have found that the more intelligent birds such as the crow or cockatoo are quicker and simpler to train than some smaller birds.

Consistency and Timing

These are the key elements required of any training program. Each time the animal exhibits the incorrect behavior it must consistently and immediately be deterred from repeating that behavior. If deterrents are not used at the appropriate time, animals are unable to associate the deterrent with their behavior. The ultimate aim is to get flying foxes, to associate crop entry with danger and not food.

Reward and Deterrents

Crop entry by flying foxes can either be rewarded or deterred. Reward from fruit is minimized by ensuring that training starts before the flying foxes have had an opportunity to feed on the crop. Secondly any deterrent should become active before the flying fox has had an opportunity to land. The more aversive a deterrent, the quicker training will occur. Deterrents however, should fall short of causing permanent injury or death.

Training Tools

The training tool requires a set of eyes, so that the observation of unwanted behavior can be seen and responded to.


Vigilance Technologies has developed a radar system to detect flying animals entering crops. The system will not detect swaying branches or animals on the ground. The radar is therefore the eye of the system. It consists of a microwave transmitter and receiver, which can be separated by up to 600 meters. Any flying animal entering the three dimensional football shaped area is detected. See drawing below.

The radar has the ability to activate deterrent systems up to 3 km away using its in-built remote control.

The radar also has the ability to count flying foxes and only operate deterrents when the number of flying foxes within the beam exceeds a preset number.

It could also be used as a research tool, as its counter output can be fed directly into a data logging system.

Computer Software Managed Deterrents

The deterrent station is activated by radio control. Software inside the unit then manages the deterrents connected to the unit. Any number of deterrents can be controlled by the system. The system also has an in-built clock so is able to alter its deterring action depending on the time of day.


These include the fireball, distress and predator calls, high powered flashing lights, gas cannon, inflatable man, and the pop up powerful owl. The distress and predator calls are both used because of their biological significance to the flying fox. Using only digital quality sound preserves their biological detail. Sounds are also edited to maximize their impact.

The actual length of the soundtrack stored in each deterrent station is four and half minutes long. The computer system will only play back a maximum of thirty seconds of this sound track each time it is activated. The computer also continuously reorganizes the sound track to minimize repetition of any one section.

The laser is also an effective deterrent solution for flying foxes.

The fireball has both biological significance and the ability to overwhelm the senses of the flying fox. This is usually used in combination with high-powered flashing lights. Field experiments within a fully infested orchard have shown that flying foxes find it difficult to get within 50 m of the flashing light. A safe distance, when the fireball erupts.

The fireball will operate in heavy rain or shine

It is also important to recognize the synergistic effect, when deterrents are combined. For example the use distress calls with the fireball, multiplies the effect of the fireball.


Flying foxes typically send scouts into a crop first, before the main group arrives. Scouts will fly around the orchard looking for the best fruit and for any signs of danger. A flying fox that flies straight into the crop has probably been there before. It is best to place the radar close to the flying foxes main entry point. If the flying foxes have a history in the orchard then their preferred entry direction is probably well known.

Otherwise noting the location of the colony, high trees around the orchard or on top of a hill, will all help in determine the likely entry strategy.

Deterrents should be placed near the ripest most available part of the crop. If the flying foxes are prone to come from multiple directions then deterrents should be placed to marshal them back through one corridor.

Driving the flying foxes through to the other-side of the crop can sometimes be better than sending them back the way they came. This requires that the flying fox will use up more energy in making further attempts to get back into the orchard.

Vigilance Technologies has a free service that can assist clients in developing strategies for their situation, either through on site visits or detailed maps.

For optimum performance of the system it is important that growers monitor their results and make adjustments to the system when necessary. Animal trainers often develop an understanding of the habits of the animals they are trying to train. Although this is not essential, it often helps to maximize the performance of the system and minimize the cost.

VIDEO: Demonstration of fireball.

High quality real movie (Fireball video 148k)