Bushfires aren’t a rare occurrence in Australia, especially with our dry and hot climate. But in recent years, climate change is making these fires more frequent and intense, putting the lives of many Australians at risk, as well as our native wildlife.
Right now, Australia’s east coast is experiencing unprecedented and catastrophic megafires, leaving a trail of destruction in their path. In response to these devastating fires, New South Wales has declared a state of emergency.
Almost one million hectares have been burned in NSW and QLD already to date, and the fires will continue into the summer season.
To prepare for the even hotter days ahead, here are a few steps you can follow if you come across injured wildlife.
The general public is advised not to seek out wildlife in active fire zones where it is unsafe.
***If in doubt, please contact your local wildlife rescue service or WIRES: 1300 094 737***
1. Visually check if the animal has any paint marks or ribbons. If either of these are present, that means that the animal has already been attended to by someone.
If there are no paint marks or ribbons, then proceed with the steps below.
2. If safe and necessary, quietly approach the injured animal.
Startling it may cause further injuries and stress.
3. Check if the animal is responsive.
a. Carefully and gently touch the animal with an object. If the animal does not respond, then it means that it is either unconscious or dead. b. Be very cautious of sharp beaks, claws, teeth and horns which can harm you. c. Remember, injured animals can behave unpredictably. They might attack even if they appear calm. d. Do not approach any animals that can injure or kill you, such as snakes, emus, cows, sheep, owls, eagles and large kangaroos. e. Do not touch bats as they may carry dangerous viruses. f. Do not attempt to treat the injured animal unless you have professional training.
4. If you find a dead koala, kangaroo, wallaby or possum, check the pouch for any joeys. You can do this by gently touching the belly and searching for movement or bulkiness. If possible, move dead animals away from roads as their predators could be in danger of becoming roadkill.
5. If required, use a towel to gently wrap and pick up the injured animal and place in a well-ventilated, cardboard box (lined with a towel). If possible, gently cover their eyes to minimise stress.
6. With the lid secured, the box should be placed in a cool, dark and quiet location. a. It is important to take extreme care when handling injured animals, particularly fragile ones such as birds and small mammals. b. Keep cats, dogs and children away from the injured animal to prevent any potentially harmful interactions. c. If the animal is an orphaned young animal, it will need to be kept warm.
7. Once the animal is secure, search the immediate area for any young offspring. a. Check the tree canopy and branches for nests that might have baby birds in them. b. If you need to move a dead koala, kangaroo, wallaby or possum away from a road, it is important to move it while it is on its back to minimise any damage to joeys that might still be in the pouch. c. Do not attempt to remove any joeys that are found attached to the teat unless you are professionally trained to do so.
8. Do not provide food or water to an injured animal unless advised to do so by a trained professional. a. Please note that only people authorised under an OEH (Office of Environment and Heritage) wildlife licence may take a native animal into care. b. Rehabilitating a native animal without an authority is illegal and can lead to prosecution. c. You are not allowed to keep rescued native animals as pets.
9. If the incident happens in summer or a hot day and you suspect the animal is dehydrated, spray the animal with water (room temperature only) without completely soaking it. a. It is important to avoid spraying water in their face and nostrils. b. If a spray water bottle is unavailable, you can lie (not wrap) the animal on a damp towel.
10. If the incident happens during winter or on a rainy day, make sure the injured animal is kept at room temperature.
11. Report the injured animal to your local vet / WIRES or accredited state agency that deals with injured animals. Important information to report includes: a. Your name b. Your contact details c. The type of animal d. The type of injuries on the animal e. Where the animal as found f. A photo of the injured animal taken on your phone.
12. If you are advised to drive the injured animal to the local vet or wildlife hospital, it is best to place the box (with a secure lid) on the front passenger’s seat. a. While driving, it is best to switch the radio off to minimise noise-related stress and drive safely. b. Do not leave the injured animal in the car without supervision, particularly on hot days.
Important phone numbers:
For animal rescue services in NSW: WIRES (Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service) 1300 094 737
If the animal was found in a national park or reserve: NPWS (National Parks and Wildlife Service) 1300 072 757