What should you do if you come across injured or orphaned wildlife?
As a rule of thumb, the following guidelines will allow you to make a big difference to the animal’s outcome:
- Call your local wildlife rehabilitation hotline as soon as possible (in the Northern Rivers: 6628 1866);
- If the animal is caught:
- keep it in a secure container lined with a towel;
- keep it in a warm, quiet room;
- minimise noises, handling and stress; and
- do not give it food, water or medication.
- Follow instructions provided by your local wildlife rehabilitation group.
Check the pouch
Remember that, for marsupials such as wallabies, koalas, echidnas and possums, joeys will often survive after their mother has died. So if you come across a recently killed marsupial, please check the pouch for joeys.
Do not remove the joey from the mother’s pouch without specific instructions from your wildlife rehabilitation hotline, as a joey ‘pulled’ from the mother’s teat will most often die as a result of head trauma. If you are not able to call the hotline straight away, leave the joey in the pouch, bundle the mother’s body in a towel or sheet and keep it in a warm quiet area until an experienced carer is able to pick up the animal.
If the animal is caught
Keep the animal in a secure container that allows airflow and is lined with a towel or other warm natural fabric (e.g. cotton or wool). For example a cardboard box lined with an unfrayed towel, and with a lid, or taped shut, is most often the best way to contain and transport an animal – with some exceptions (such as echidnas, snakes and some birds of prey).
Keep the animal in a warm, quiet room and avoid any disturbance. Please avoid handling it and showing to other people as stress will often result in poorer outcomes and other health-related problems. Call your local wildlife rehabilitation group as soon as possible. The quickest the animal comes into care, the more likely it is to survive and be successfully rehabilitated.
If you need to transport the animal, please avoid pets, radio, and loud noises while you have the animal in the car, as it will often stress the animal, which may make its condition worse.
Do not give it anything to eat or drink, nor any medication, as it first needs to be fully assessed by an experienced carer or vet.
If the animal is not caught
Call your local wildlife rehabilitation group as soon as possible with location details and describe the problem if you can. In some areas, it may be difficult to have an exact street address, so it can be helpful if you provide details such as he distance to the nearest house / road intersection etc. It also helps if you can remain at the site or leave a marker (such as a colourful piece of fabric).
Barbed wire / netting entanglements
Entanglements result in a painful and slow death if the animal is not rescued and treated properly. Even if the animal looks fine, it should come into care as the effects of the entanglement often take up to a week to be visible. Netting will cut into the skin and stop blood flow, resulting in the the loss of limbs, wings etc. Barbed wire entanglements often results in other injuries that are not immediately visible, such as punctured palate (when the animal tries to chew the fence), and infections that can take days to set in.
Consequently any animal found tangled up in netting or on a barbed wire fence should be reported immediately to your local wildlife rehabilitation hotline. This type of rescue requires particular care in order to optimise the animal’s outcome. Therefore, we recommend that you leave the animal as you found it, and cover it with a light-coloured towel or cotton fabric to reduce its stress and minimise any further damage.
Other animals such as birds of prey often become the victim of cars when they come to feed on carcasses left on the road. Therefore, if you have hit an animal, or come across a recently killed animal, please check if the animal is dead and, if it is a marsupial, check its pouch for a joey. If the animal is dead and does not have joeys, please remove the body from the road and put it to the side of the road as far away from the road as possible.
Bat on powerlines
It is not normal for a bat to be hanging from a powerline, especially during the day. Therefore, if you see a bat hanging from, or caught on, a powerline, please call your local wildlife rehabilitation group immediately. Whilst the bat may appear dead, it can sometimes still be alive. Additionally we often rescue live babies that are hanging on their dead mother. These babies can successfully be rehabilitated and released back into the wild.