by Wildlife Carer Rachel Aspinall
So many Australians care deeply about our native wildlife and wish there was more they could do to help. Being a wildlife carer can be very time consuming and expensive, and so isn’t for everyone, but there are still so many things that anyone can do to help!
In previous HT columns I’ve gone through some of these before, but this month I’d like to really focus on one of the most valuable services the public can provide to the wildlife care community.
It’s easy to get immune to the sight of roadkill. There’s no getting around the fact that using cars means that sometimes wildlife are going to get hit, and while this is tragic it’s not always a total loss. What you might not think about when passing the body is that there can often still be life in there.
Young joeys can live for up to several days inside the pouch of a dead mother, depending on their size and development.
The first option here is to perform a pouch check yourself. This is, understandably, a difficult task for the squeamish – I don’t love it either, but knowing there are lives I could save is a great motivator.
The second option is to get in touch with me or another wildlife carer and we might be able to investigate ourselves. It’s so lovely when people do stop and find the time to check bodies and discover a little joey that still has a chance.
If you think you’d like to have a go at recovering animals, you could consider preparing a “Boot Buddy” kit in your car – some easily acquired materials to safely rescue and transport animals.
Recently I had a lovely young lady call in after accidentally hitting a possum on the road – accidents like this happen, and we are happy to be called to rescue, not angry that it happened!
As a result, I have taken into care a Short Eared Possum, also known as a Mountain or a Bobuck Possum from the pouch of a dead mum. Thankfully she is going well and just started to venture out of her pouch in the last couple of days to eat leaves, in addition to being fed on milk every four hours.
I recently came across a dead Swamp Wallaby that was half on and half off the road. Every driver would have seen this animal, but no one had called, checked the pouch or taken the time to move her body off the road to prevent further roadkill as birds would start to feed off her.
Wildlife carers can’t be everywhere, sadly, so we need your help spotting and checking or calling in whenever possible.
Important considerations when attempting to help wildlife: Never put yourself in danger from animals or traffic; DO NOT EVER ATTEMPT TO PICK UP A BAT OR SNAKE. These animals must only be handled by experienced/vaccinated carers; do not offer food or water unless advised to do so by a vet or rehabilitator; do not remove an animal from the pouch of a live animal, and never remove a joey that is still attached to their deceased mother’s teat. (I sometimes have people bring the body to me to remove the baby safely.)
An animal may need help if it meets one of the following criteria:
- Can be approached more easily than expected, doesn’t startle or try to escape
- Appears lethargic, lazy and/or tired
- Species usually seen in trees observed on the ground (e.g. koalas, possums, gliders, flying foxes), and
- Nocturnal animals out during the daylight.
A ‘Boot Buddy’ is a simple set of items that can be carried in cars to assist our wildlife:
- A towel: to capture the animal/bird and keep it wrapped up in the box
- Pillow case: to contain marsupials
- Elastic band to close the pillow case and keep the animal snug. Small animals like to be kept in small pouches so adjust the location of the band to suit the size of the animal
- Gardening gloves: to handle wildlife safely and hygienically
- Medium-sized cardboard box with air holes for ventilation, and
- A Wildlife Contact Card or number saved on your phone. Even if I am not available or the closest to respond to you, I am happy to help find help.
Image: Maple Short Eared Possum, orphaned in Mapleton