With Australian weather becoming more extreme we are starting to see many more animals come into care with heat stress related problems. When we see consecutive hot days this is when we need to be more proactive in helping the animals.
Easy things you can do to help:
- Place bowls of water in your garden and public parks in locations that are secure and protected from predators such as cats or dogs. Make sure you don’t use metal or steel bowls as they heat up.
- Put sticks or rocks in the bowl to help insects and animals climb out of water bowls or bird baths.
- Hang a water dispenser from a tree or place a bowl in a hanging basket.
- Use the garden hose to spray water into trees and shrubs.
- On hot days put some fruit out like watermelon or frozen grapes for birds as finding food in the hot weather can exhaust small animals.
- Place artificial shade around your garden so animals can rest there, and possum and bird boxes in your trees
- At all times keep your dogs on leads and well away from areas where they could prey on wildlife when at the park.
- Check for wildlife before letting them loose in your backyard. Making sure they are supervised during this time.
- Do not let your cat free roam outside during the day or night, especially over spring and summer. For their own protection and the protection of our wildlife we strongly advocate for building cat enclosures. Check out www.happycatenclosures.com.au for more info and ideas.
Signs of heat stress and what to do:
Possums/ koalas/flying foxes:
- Curled up on the ground or down from tree.
- Lethargic or unresponsive
- Out during the day
- Flying foxes will be waving their wings trying to cool down
- Beaks open and panting.
- Wings fanned out
- Looking weak
- Not flying away when approached
Kangaroos or Wallabies:
- Rapid breathing
- licking paws
- appear lethargic
In server cases animals may present as unconscious, seizuring, display loss of balance and confusion.
Wildlife are not used to humans and therefore they can be very dangerous and unpredictable, especially when scared or injured. With that in mind prioritize your own safety and proceed with caution if you feel comfortable to handle the situation.
If you discover heat stressed or injured wildlife and only when you are certain it is safe, place them in a cardboard box with adequate ventilation and place them in a cool, dark, quiet area.
- Do not wrap them in wet towels.
- Leave water available to them, but do not force them to drink. Force drinking can lead to aspiration and death.
- Please do not release an animal back into the wild until a carer has given you instruction to do so.
- If the animal is injured or in pain, do not wait to get them medical care.
- If you can take them to the nearest vet and call a wildlife carer.
At the vet clinic ask the staff what treatment the animal will be receiving and let them know you are happy to take the animal to another vet clinic if they don’t have the time or a local shelter for help.
While vets have a responsibility to treat wildlife for free, sometimes at some clinics, staff are not trained in treating wildlife and wild animals may have to wait until the end of the day, and in some cases the next day, until receiving adequate help.
It is your job to be their voice in these situations and make sure they will receive medical attention quickly.