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Topics > Plants & animals > Living with wildlife

Grey-headed flying foxes

Grey-headed flying foxes (Pteropus poliocephalus) are protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 and play an important role in helping conserve our many native plant species by dispersing native seeds and pollen.

Until recently, Grey-headed flying foxes have only visited south-eastern South Australia but have since established a campsite in Adelaide. This movement is thought to be due to a combination of factors including habitat loss, competition for food resources and the effects of climate change across their natural range in the eastern states.

Flying foxes camps are often noisy, smelly and messy so it is not surprising that people do not always appreciate them in their neighbourhood. If you want to disturb or relocate a fox camp, approval is required from the department, and in some cases, from the Australian Government. Please email for more information.

More information on Grey-headed flying foxes in South Australia is available on Green Adelaide's webpage.

Disease risk to humans

Some flying foxes carry diseases, including Australian bat lyssavirus and the Hendra virus. Flying foxes pose no human health risks unless a person is bitten or scratched, so it is very important that you never handle them (or any other species of bat) - this includes injured or dead animals - unless you have been vaccinated against the Australian bat lyssavirus.

A human contracting Australian bat lyssavirus is extremely rare and preventable. It is only transmitted by flying fox saliva coming into contact with an open wound or mucus membrane such as the eyes, nose or mouth. It is not spread through droppings or urine, so people are not exposed to the virus if a flying fox flies overhead, feeds or roosts in their garden, or if they live near a camp or visit one.

Hendra virus outbreaks are also very rare. There is no evidence that humans can catch the virus directly from flying foxes. Hendra virus may be transmitted from flying foxes to horses and it is possible for humans to contract it from infected horses. There have been no cases of Hendra virus in South Australia.

If you find an injured or dead flying fox, please contact a wildlife rescue organisation or the RSPCA. Do not attempt to remove it yourself.

If you are bitten or scratched by a flying fox, wash the site immediately with plenty of soap and water and seek medical attention straight away.