The last few months have been a horror story for flying-foxes along Australia's east coast. Food shortages and heatwaves have caused tens of thousands of deaths. For a species that is already struggling – and failing – to replace itself, it's been a disaster.
Since January the problem has been exacerbated with hungry flying-foxes becoming entangled in fruit tree netting. A thumb, toe or wing is easily caught in the netting, and as the animal tries to escape, the net tightens around the bats' body, cutting off blood supply to veins, causing often fatal constriction wounds.
Across the state, WIRES has been receiving an average of 20 flying-fox calls per day, well above normal demand for this time of year.
Even in Goulburn we are seeing an increase in rescues and almost all involve netting.
Among the fortunate locals that have survived and who are now in care are Bradley, Frodo and Arwen.
Bradley still bears the scars of his encounter with netting, but he is now ready to go and has been sent to crèche to regain flight fitness. It won't be long before he is out in the night skies. Hopefully he will keep a safe distance from nets.
Frodo became entangled in a backyard plum tree in Goulburn in early February and so far, appears to have come out of it injury-free. The owner of that property promised to pull the netting down later in the day. Unfortunately, it rained that afternoon and the netting stayed put.
The following morning we received a distressed call to let us know another flying-fox was caught in the same netting. This time the owner removed the netting while the rescuer tended to the flying-fox’s injuries.
Arwen, as the female bat has been named, sustained serious wounds leading to one wing membrane breaking down a week after she came into care.
While some bone is exposed, regular bandaging is keeping her safe from infection and given time, her membrane will regrow and she will eventually be released.
If you can do just one thing for wildlife this year, this is it: take down wildlife unfriendly tree netting!
No netting is 100 per cent safe for wildlife, but as a consumer, you can choose nets that minimise the danger to flying-foxes, possums, birds, snakes and other wildlife.
As a rule, white nets are better than black. The denser the weave, the less likely it is that an animal can become entangled. Mesh size under 5mm is best. But if you don't have a measuring tape or ruler on you, the easiest way to judge the safety of a net is to try putting your little finger through the holes. If you can get it through, please don't use the net: it is not wildlife friendly.
Should you need advice or help with injured or distressed wildlife and are in the Southern Tablelands area, please ring our Branch Rescue Number: 4822 3888. If you are elsewhere please ring the WIRES main rescue number 1300 094 737.
The past snake season has been exceptionally busy, with our branch responding to and relocating a total of 32 snakes.
These were made up of 18 Eastern Browns, 13 Tigers and 1 Red-bellied Black.
Snakes have been found in a variety of places such as chook pens, nesting boxes, sheds, garages, on verandahs, under houses and also inside people's homes.
As well as the calls we have responded to, we have also had many enquiries on snake sightings, far too numerous to record.
As WIRES members our dedicated snake handlers are volunteers, who rescue and care for reptiles in their own time. Therefore we are unable to respond to all the calls we receive where the snake is not injured or posing an immediate risk to human safety.
WIRES’ priority is to respond to situations where reptiles are injured or under direct threat, or who are posing a real risk to the caller.
We do, however, give advice to callers on steps they can take to safely and humanely encourage the snake to relocate elsewhere.
For people we are unable to assist, should they still want the snake relocated there is a professional snake catcher in our area, Rhys Finch, who will relocate snakes for a fee. Mobile: 0431 265 416 or 0422 404 121.