As an emergency vet we look after more than just your pets, we often take in injured or orphaned wildlife as well. Some of the most common questions we hear on a daily basis are about when and how wildlife should be brought in and what happens to them after you leave.
What to do if you come across injured wildlife
While they may look as cute and cuddly as your pet, wild animals are not used to being handled and may be carrying diseases. Protect yourself from bites and scratches by creating a barrier between you and the animal. You can do this by throwing a towel over the animal and scooping it up. It is never recommended to handle bats, snakes, large kangaroos or any other aggressive or venomous animal as they can cause serious harm. In these cases, call your local council or wildlife organisation.
This echidna was rescued after most likely being hit by a car and looked after by our Pet ICU team until the RSPCA could take over
Check before rescuing
No matter the species, do not offer food or water to any wildlife. All species have very specific diets and feeding them incorrectly or while they are in shock can be fatal.
If there are obvious signs of injury or immediate danger to the animal, it needs to be brought in for care as soon as possible. However, for some animals there are a few extra steps to take before seeking help.
Young birds not yet able to fly are often mistaken as injured when in fact the parents have only left temporarily to forage for food. If you find a bird that is flightless but has no other obvious injuries it is best to create a nest in the hope the parents will return. Drill holes through the bottom of a bucket, ice cream container or hanging plant pot and line it with grass. Place a stick at an angle as it may allow the bird to perch and be visible to its parents. hang the container from a tree as close as possible to where you found it. Birds are territorial and will be looking for their baby where they left it. If you are able, keep a close eye on the bird or check back at regular intervals. If the bird's parents have not returned by dark, it will need to be taken into care.
If you have found an adult marsupial such as a kangaroo, possum or wallaby that has already passed away it is important to check her pouch for a joey. Joeys can survive days in the pouch after the mother has died. If there is a joey don't remove it as this can cause serious damage. Instead, bring the mother and joey together, as you found them. If the mother is too large then call your local council or wildlife care organisation.
It's important to always check the pouch of marsupials even if they have passed away
Carrying the animal by hand is not recommended no matter how small. They may become panicked during transport and scratch, bite or injure themselves. Instead, gently place the animal with a towel or some newspaper into a cardboard box. If you don't have one available make sure whatever container you use provides suitable ventilation. If possible, it is best to use a box or container you don't mind leaving behind. We want to keep the animal as relaxed as possible and prevent any further injury. Limiting unnecessary handling between boxes is a great way to do this.
What happens next
When you arrive at our hospital, one of our vets will give the animal a general health check and provide some pain relief if necessary. If the animal is young or appears malnourished it will be fed the appropriate diet, often by hand. Once stable enough to be transported, a registered wildlife carer will be called to collect the animal for rehabilitation and release back into the area it was found.
Possum being hand feed by one of our emergency vets