Weathering the new norm

Photo: supplied.
Photo: supplied.

The unpredictable, changeable and extremes of weather that seem to be the norm nowadays can have a catastrophic effect on our wildlife.

For example, storms and high winds can bring down trees and nests and separate young and vulnerable chicks and joeys from their parents. Parent birds have very strong instincts to protect and feed their young. Wherever possible the best outcome for most birds is to reunite them. Often young birds will be found on the ground after falling from nests. It is normal for fledgling magpies to fall out of the nest and spend a couple of days on the ground, with parents feeding them whilst they master the tricky art of flying. However, wind and storms may bring many to the ground far too early, and they may need another couple of weeks to develop to full fledgling stage before they have any chance of flying.

If you find a chick on the ground, put it back in the nest if possible.  If the nest is too high up to reach, you can put a post in the ground, and attach a basket to it as a “pretend nest”. Or secure a basket in the tree the chick came from. If you then move well away from the “nest”, the parents may come back and start to feed their little one. This is always the best option as being raised by their parents gives chicks the best start to being wild birds. As carers, no matter how hard we try, we cannot raise them as well as their natural parents. It may take some time for the parents to return but if the chick is very young and there is no sign of the parents after a reasonable length of time, it will need to come into care.

Spring is proving to be very warm this year, which has brought the snakes out early. We are therefore starting to receive calls from people concerned because they see a snake on their property. Generally, snakes are shy, reclusive animals and will avoid confrontation with humans at all costs, preferring to flee if given the opportunity. WIRES priority is to respond to situations where reptiles are injured. 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. Our advice if someone calls because they have seen a snake outside their home is that usually it will move on before very long.  Snakes have no vested interest in attacking humans, and any bites are almost always a defensive response to a perceived threat. Given this fact, it is reasonable to assume that, if left alone, the risk posed by any Australian snake would be negligible.

While most native animals are well adapted to changes in climatic conditions they can still suffer during heatwaves.  Animals can cope with extremes in temperatures they are used to, but if these extremes are unusual for a particular area the animals there will struggle. So, with summer approaching please put fresh, cool water out for wildlife. Make sure you have a few sticks or stones in bowls or containers so that if small creatures fall in they can make it back out. Refresh the water daily, and more often during periods of extreme heat. If you are on a rural property and are concerned about water bowls attracting snakes to the house, then place shallow bowls around the perimeter fences. This can also assist in providing a water source to deter reptiles from seeking water from pets’ water bowls, dripping taps etc. closer to the house.

Flying-foxes are particularly susceptible to several days with low humidity and very high temperatures. If you see flying-foxes, young or old, on the ground, or moving to lower branches or to the ground below their roost trees please call WIRES. It is important that only trained and vaccinated carers rescue distressed and injured flying-foxes or bats.

Animals with health issues, or the very young or old, will find it harder to cope - just like humans. The increasing loss of suitable habitat, including the loss of leafy vegetation and older growth trees with hollows for shelter, means more animals are at risk in the heat.  Tree hollows are particularly essential for our native parrots and many of our marsupials. As less and less hollows are available for shelter it means more creatures may suffer from exposure and more animals may seek refuge in unusual places such as garages, sheds or houses.

Please keep an eye out for animals exposed to the elements, but remember for your own safety do not approach snakes, monitors (goannas), flying-foxes, microbats, large macropods or raptors. These animals require specialist handling and must be rescued by trained wildlife rescuers. 

WIRES is a volunteer organisation, not a government department and not government funded. It relies solely on donations from the general public, along with fund raising by individual branches.  Our free services are only available because of the dedication of our volunteers (many of whom are in full time employment), who rescue  and care for our wildlife in their own time and, more often than not, at considerable personal expense.

Should you need advice or  help with injured or distressed wildlife, please ring the WIRES Rescue Number 1300 094737.