The annual Australian Veterinary Association conference has just concluded and I was honoured to be there as a speaker. I presented to my veterinary colleagues on dealing with wildlife admissions while in General Practice. This post focuses on some of these urban wildlife issues, with some tips on how you can help.
Research surveys repeatedly show that across the country many vet clinics pour in hours of unpaid time, drugs and other consumables treating wildlife. There is no support for this – no funds from the Government or rebates etc. Simply, the vast majority of vets in private practice feel an obligation to help wildlife.
I have been involved in wildlife care and volunteering since the 1990s and completed a wildlife Masters degree in 2008. It rarely pays the bills, but nothing makes me feel better than using my veterinary skills to help wildlife. Similarly, delivering a session to pass on my knowledge to other vets was tremendously rewarding!
So how can you help wildlife? Step one is to take the time to collect any debilitated animal you see in your day to the nearest vet practice or wildlife rehab centre. Call the Wildcare Helpline on 9474 9055 to find the nearest appropriate place. Be careful picking up animals as even those seriously injured can be dangerous. They naturally have no idea you are trying to help as no other creature on the planet does this! Wrapping the animal in a towel and then transferring to a cardboard box or pet carrier is usually the best approach.
Please do NOT take the animal home and try to care for it yourself unless you have a wealth of experience, all the equipment AND a carer’s licence!
If you find a baby bird on the ground it is probably best to simply leave it alone. Most baby birds are not orphans and don’t need our help. If it has feathers it is fledging and this is a normal process. Just watch from a distance and you are likely to see the parents return and feed it. If there is a definite injury you should treat it like any other injured wildlife as noted above. If it only has fluff, not feathers or is super tiny and doesn’t yet even have fluff you can either return it to its nest (not always possible) or make a bucket nest. The picture shows how to make a simple nest with a standard plastic bucket. Holes at the bottom allow it to drain in case of rain and the long stick allows the bird to climb out as needed, and the parents to climb in.
We can all do our part to help the health of our urban wildlife.