Drive carefully on dusk in the coming months

With darkness coming at the same time as people are driving home from work, there are more wildlife injured on the roads at this time of year. I do wish we could train our wildlife to evade the dangers of suburbia! I am sure our lovely volunteers on the WILVOS 5441 6200 hotline would like that too!

It is always surprising just what wildlife is around in busy parts of town. Last week there was an adult male wallaby at the skateboard park at Yandina. Lovely members of the public kept the wallaby from disappearing into the bush. The Rescue Team from the Australia Zoo Wild life Hospital was thankfully able to come out and deal with the situation. Unfortunately, the wallaby had a very nasty compound fracture and needed to be euthanized.

Car impact with wildlife is often just unavoidable, but when someone told me last week it ‘was nature’, it was extremely difficult to be diplomatic. It is not nature when wildlife is hit with a motor vehicle. Though an accident, it is good to see that people take responsibility and want to help the injured animal as soon as possible. Even if the outcome is euthanasia, it is saving an animal from days of pain and suffering.

So drive carefully on dusk in the coming months, and phone up if any animals are found injured. Many native animals are saved because people take the time to phone for help.

Thank you to the Yandina helpers and thank you to the Rescue Team.

Echidnas, an incredible species of wildlife

The cooler weather means that more echidnas are now being seen on the roads and in the back yard. Winter time is their breeding time which means they are on the move.

The female may be seen followed by an echidna ‘train’, which is a line of males in hot pursuit. Exhaustion, or other distractions, sees them slowly drop off until there is one male left which will mate with the female.

These Australian monotremes are extraordinary in that they lay a single egg into a ‘pouch’ which forms specially for the occasion. The egg incubates for 10.5 days in the pouch. The tiny egg is soft and rubbery, with a diameter of a five cent coin. Dr Peggy Rismiller, of the Pelican Lagoon Research and Wildlife Centre on Kangaroo Island, had the amazing experience of checking a female echidna’s pouch and actually finding an egg hatching.

Over the years Peggy Rismiller and partner, Mike McKelvey, have studied these unique creatures and given us so much more knowledge of their biology and their behavioural attributes. Somehow the puggle manages to hang on in the ‘pouch’ for almost 60 days, drinking from the mother’s milk patch. Once the prickly spines develop, understandably the young is deposited into a very cool nursery burrow. These are one animal that are not given artificial heat on arrival in care. Heat stress can mean sudden death.

It must be a culture shock for the poor little echidna, as mother only returns every 5 or 6 days to spend up to two hours feeding the young, which drinks almost half of its bodyweight in milk. They look hilarious after a feed!

At seven months of age the youngster is weaned. Mother leads it out of the burrow, gives it the last feed, pushes it back inside but doesn’t cover the entrance. The young echidna now has to be a fast learner at foraging!

It is extremely important that echidnas are never moved far from where they are found. There are no obvious sex differences in the adults, unless it is at pouch and puggle time. Therefore an adult echidna could be relocated and the young echidna could starve to death waiting for Mum to come back and feed it in the burrow.

Echidnas just have to be one of Australia’s most incredible species of wildlife.

Limping Waterhen

One Sunday afternoon on the WILVOS hotline I had a call from a young woman. She saw a waterhen limping down the side of the road. She stopped and tried to catch it but it ran off into the long grass.

As always, I asked her if she was parked safely off the side of the road. I think we should always ask that as sometimes people forget to be aware of their own safety.

The lady wanted to know what she could do. I asked if she had a blanket or towel in the car. The answer was ‘yes’ and she thought she could see the bird through the bushes. Still on the line, there was a running commentary and lots of squishy and tramping noises.

Next thing heard was, “I’ve got it!  I’ve got it!” I explained to always be careful of both ends, the beak and the legs. Birds can inflict injury on the rescuer if not covered well. Asking if there was any injury, the young lady said that the waterhen definitely had a sore leg.

Unfortunately there was no container in the car but the bird was carefully wrapped in a blanket and a towel, with its head covered so it would be less frightened and stressed. I asked if this obliging lass could take the bird to the Tanawha vets. The answer was in the affirmative so I rang to advise the vet surgery first and then rang the rescuer back to say they were expecting her.

When asked where the waterhen was, I was told it was strapped in with the seat belt on the back seat. The vision in my mind made me laugh, but I thanked her profusely for helping our wildlife.

Claude – WILVOS Hotline