What should you do if you come across injured wildlife? Vet Ben Willcocks provides his expert advice.
A day in the life of an Australian wildlife rehabilitator is a busy day indeed! Often they are run off their feet from dawn to dusk, looking after a variety of different species ranging from snakes to joeys. They are the lifeguards for our native wildlife, and having met quite a few in my capacity as a Veterinarian, I have come to appreciate the work they do.
When working in the veterinary clinic, I’ve had injured wildlife bought in for a plethora of different reasons, ranging from penguins stuck in fishing line, to kangaroo’s suffering burns. More often then not, people are quite frustrated by the time they have arrived at the clinic, having made a bunch of unsuccessful calls in an attempt get some advice on what to do.
The issue is that there are many organisations that offer rehabilitation and rescue services, however they are relatively unknown, and certainly difficult to contact after hours. Which is entirely understandable, there’s only so much in the way of resources at our disposal.
So what should you do if you do find injured wildlife? Here is a list of suggestions on how to best look after injured wildlife in these circumstances:
1. Assess for any indication of danger. As we know, some animals (certainly snakes) are obviously dangerous, and shouldn’t be approached. And, when injured or scared, animals you wouldn’t immediately consider to be dangerous, can quickly become that way when approached. If you have any concern over risks at all, don’t approach the animal.
2. If you feel safe to approach, throw a towel over the animal, taking note of wear the sharp points are located. This minimises stress by placing the injured animal in a warm, dark, quiet environment.
3. Place a hot water bottle (wrapped in a towel) next to the animal to keep it warm. Hypothermia and stress are two of the more significant risks to injured wildlife.
4. Place in a well ventilated box. Cardboard boxes are best suited for birds, as it reduces the likelihood of sustaining further wing damage. Standard pet carry cages are suitable for most other animals. Always place a towel in the bottom for stability.
5. If possible, and it isn’t likely to stress the animal, check it to assess for any injuries. This can sometimes be difficult, but try to look for bleeding, abnormal anatomy (ie broken wing), body temperature, etc.
6. Never offer food or water to the animal, unless you are unable to quickly get to a carer or vet clinic. Always keep other companion animals and children away from the animal, again to minimise stress.
7. Most importantly, handle the pet as little as possible.
Once you have placed the animal in a safe, warm, stress-free environment, call your local Veterinarian or nearest wildlife carer organisation as soon as possible. This call may even be worth making initially, so they can advise you on the best way to handle the animal. Use your discretion with this. Listed below are a bunch of contact numbers which may be useful as a point of reference:
NSW: Contact WIRES on 13000 WIRES (1300 094 737) or Sydney Wildlife 02 9413 4300
ACT: Contact RSPCA Wildlife on 02 6287 8113 or 0413 495 031
VIC: Contact Help for Wildlife on 0417 380 687
QLD:Contact Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service on 1300 130 372
TAS:Contact Wildlife Management Branch of the Tasmanian Govt on 03 6233 6556
WA: Contact Wildcare on 08 9474 9055
NT: Contact Wildlife Rescue Darwin on 0409090840
SA:Contact RSPCA SA on 08 8231 6931
If the relevant numbers don’t work, call your local Vet clinic, or try any of the other numbers, and get some advice on the best person to call in your area. Once the animal is assessed, assuming it is suitable for rehabilitation, it will be handed over to our lovely wildlife carers until eventually being released.
Dr Ben Willcocks is a Veterinarian, and a regular contributor to the pet website, www.vetico.com.au.