How (and when) to help our furry and feathered friends.
We all love seeing wildlife thrive in our local area, but what if you find a wild creature who seems to be injured or in distress?
Before racing to the rescue, we need to understand two things. First, some animals require specialist handling, especially if they are venomous or considered dangerous for some other reason. Second, ALL wildlife will become stressed when handled, so this is to be minimised or avoided. Wildlife biologists and rehabilitators Kiara L’Herpiniere and Louis O’Neill share three simple steps to follow if you find an injured animal:
1. Remove threats
This might mean ensuring cats or dogs can’t access the area or containing the animal for its own safety, either in a box with air holes or under something like a washing basket.
2. Minimise stress
Remember, avoid handling the animal. If you’ve secured them in a box, place this in a dark, quiet room and try to leave undisturbed until you are advised otherwise.
3. Seek advice
Call your local wildlife rescue organisation, who will be able to talk you through what to do next. If you don’t know what number to call, you can download the IFAW Wildlife Rescue App to find the closest licensed wildlife rescue group. Otherwise, you can take the animal to the nearest vet. Many will treat wildlife free of charge.
Remember, some wildlife have special diets, so don’t give the animal any food unless advised to do so. While it’s okay to provide a water dish, never force them to drink. This can cause further harm.
WHERE WILDLIFE AND ROADS MEET
Most wildlife injuries you’ll come across will be caused by road accidents. Unfortunately, few animals survive being hit by a moving vehicle, so the best thing we can do is drive with awareness to avoid an accident in the first place. WIRES CEO Leanne Taylor says, “Take extra care when driving in regional areas or places where animals are likely to frequent – think roads that abut paddocks, parks, forests, fresh water sources, and even golf courses. Be especially vigilant at dawn, dusk, and throughout the night when animals are often on the move.”
If you do collide with an animal or see an injured animal on the road, stop and check for life if it is safe to do so. If the animal is alive, seek help immediately by contacting the local wildlife rescue organisation who can advise you on what to do next. Ms Taylor advises, “If the animal is dead, it’s important to check the surrounding area and the pouch, if relevant, for any young that may have survived the incident. If you find a joey or juvenile, wrap them in a towel or similar to keep warm, but never remove a baby from the teat, instead keep the mother’s body warm if possible until help arrives.”
Often it isn’t safe to pull over or turn back to check on an animal on the road. In these cases, take note of the exact location and report to the local wildlife rescue organisation, who may be able to assist.
READY TO RESCUE
Be prepared to help injured wildlife by keeping a rescue kit in your car.
- Cardboard box or rescue basket
- Old towel or pillowcase
- Torch and scissors
- Gloves and long-sleeved shirt
- Mask and hand sanitiser
To report a native animal in distress, call WIRES on 1300 094 737. You’ll also find plenty of useful wildlife info at wires.org.au.
HOW TO BE WILDLIFE FRIENDLY
Unfortunately, wildlife are more at risk when they live near or pass through human environments. But there are plenty of small kindnesses you can do to help keep them safe.
Be an anti-litter legend
Not littering seems obvious, but even if you see litter on the ground, you can help protect wildlife by putting it in the bin. Common culprits include elastic bands, masks, and any kind of plastic ring – animals frequently get stuck in these, so always cut before disposing.
Manage companion animals
Dogs and cats, and particularly those allowed to roam, attack many of our wildlife friends when we aren’t watching, including mammals, birds, and reptiles. A recent study showed that on average, each roaming cat kills 186 reptiles, birds, and mammals per year. Make sure your animals are properly contained and kept away from wildlife habitats.
Avoid using baits to control pests
Aside from the fact that critters like snails, ants, and spiders deserve life as much as any other animal, using poisons and baits to control them directly impacts lizards, birds, and mammals through secondary poisoning. Try catch-and-release instead or otherwise removing food sources to keep them away.
Make water sources safe
Wildlife often seek out drinking water in our human environments, but can drown in containers and pools if they fall in. Place a rock or stick in containers so they can climb out, and secure a rubber door mat or similar over the edge of your pool to create an escape ramp.
Use wildlife-friendly garden netting
If you use garden netting to protect your veggie patch or fruit trees, spare wildlife from horrific entanglement injuries by choosing wildlife-friendly netting. Use the finger test: if the holes are big enough to poke you finger through, it is unsafe for wildlife.
Let them be wild
As much as we love our wildlife, feeding them is rarely the kind thing to do. Whatever you think is a good food for them is likely to be problematic, whether it is directly harmful as a food, encourages overpopulation, or trains the animal to rely on human foods.
Often the best way we can help wildlife is to help them avoid danger in the first place. When intervention is necessary, it’s always advisable to seek the help of a licensed rescue organisation.