Illegal fruit netting causes rapid rise in wildlife harm

A spike in animal injuries and deaths from fruit netting entanglements has prompted a reminder to gardeners to ensure they’re using wildlife-friendly netting to protect their backyard crops.

Published:
Sunday, 21 January 2024 at 10:14 pm
A native grey-headed flying fox hangs upside down in a fruit tree while entangled in green netting

Victorian gardeners are being urged to ensure they’re using wildlife-friendly fruit netting when trying to protect their backyard crops, as wildlife carers and authorities report a spike in animal injuries and deaths from entanglements this summer.

The Conservation Regulator is warning the community about the dangers illegal netting poses to native wildlife, such as birds, bats, and possums, and is reminding household growers that they must use safe, compliant fruit netting with mesh no bigger than 5mm x 5mm.

In Victoria, it has been illegal to use or sell netting with a mesh size bigger than this since 1 September 2021, as larger mesh netting on fruiting trees or plants is more likely to entangle, distress, and fatally injure animals.

In addition to an appropriate mesh size, experts also recommend using netting that is white and has a cross-weave design, as it reduces the risks to wildlife and is easier for nocturnal animals to see and avoid at night.

Other tips for safer netting:

  • Try protecting selected branches with bags or sleeves, rather than netting the whole tree.
  • Never throw netting loosely over trees or let it lay on the ground. This can trap reptiles and other animals.
  • Fix netting tightly to the tree trunk to help stop rats and birds from reaching the fruit.

Native species play an important part in our ecosystem, and following a dry spring with stunted plant growth, Victorians are more likely to see wildlife, such as vulnerable grey-headed flying foxes, in their backyards looking for food.

If you find entangled, injured, or distressed wildlife, you can find temporary care information and contact details for the closest wildlife services by calling DEECA on 136 186 or using the Help for Injured Wildlife tool: https://www.wildlife.vic.gov.au/injured-native-wildlife/help-for-injured-wildlife

In Victoria, all wildlife is protected by law. It is illegal to use or sell non-compliant household fruit netting under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulations 2019 and Authorised Officers can issue on-the-spot fines of $384 to users and $769 to sellers of illegal netting. Offenders also face a maximum penalty of $2,884 if prosecuted in court.

The community is encouraged to report any information about wildlife crime to Crime Stoppers Victoria on 1800 333 000.

For more on how to protect both crops and wildlife, visit: https://www.wildlife.vic.gov.au/managing-wildlife/wildlife-and-fruit-trees.

We know Victorians love their fruit and vegetable gardens, but as backyard visits from native animals become more common, it is the responsibility of households to protect vulnerable wildlife from harm by complying with fruit netting laws.

It’s disappointing to be hearing stories of unnecessary wildlife injuries and deaths caused by entanglements in unsafe and illegal household fruit netting. The Conservation Regulator is working to assess any reports we receive and take the appropriate action.

Wayne RobinsActing Chief Conservation Regulator

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