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What to Do When You Find Injured Wildlife

If you find an orphaned or injured native animal, reptile or bird, please contact Crookwell Veterinary Hospital or WIRES (02 4822 3888) immediately for advice. How wildlife are handled and treated in the first few hours can be critical to their survival and release back into the wild.

Crookwell Veterinary Hospital staff have a strong commitment to Australian wildlife and CVH has worked closely with WIRES (Wildlife Information and Rescue Service) for two decades. Our practice has a dedicated policy of taking in sick or injured native birds, animals or reptiles, free of charge. Read more here.

Handle with care

Stress is the greatest killer of injured wildlife, regardless of the species. Wild animals are highly sensitive to their surroundings and most have difficulty adapting to humans and handling.

Place the rescued animal, bird or reptile into a cardboard box or pet cage, cover with a blanket and put in a quiet place. Don’t let children or other adults handle the animal, and never try to force feed water or milk. Marsupials (kangaroos, wallabies and euros) can’t handle lactose in cow’s milk and need special formulae to survive and thrive. A few hours without fluid is safer than force-feeding the wrong diet.

Until you can deliver the injured animal to CVH or WIRES, it’s important to understand individual species need different holding conditions:

  1. Always keep dogs, cats, children (and curious adults) away from injured wildlife. Stress can kill.
  2. Birds and most mammals (eg baby joeys found in the pouch of a marsupial killed by a car) need warmth, darkness and a quiet environment. Joeys will settle in an old pillowcase inside a box.
  3. Echidnas are different – they are very vulnerable to heat stress and need a cool environment (less than 25 degrees C). Place in as solid a box as you can find and keep in a cool place. NEVER use a spade to try to dig an echidna out of a curled position – this is the most common way people injure echidna limbs and the very sensitive snout. Ring for advice about the safest and most effective way to pick up an echidna.
  4. Reptiles are also temperature sensitive and should be kept in a soft bag inside a box placed in a cool, dark environment.
  5. The platypus can be quite dangerous – the male platypus has a spur on its hind limbs that connects to a poison gland, and the toxin causes immense pain and swelling to human victims (as to its prey). Handle with great care, holding by the base of the tail and always away from your body. Like the echidna, platypus are very temperature sensitive – place in a smooth-sided box or cloth bag, and keep in a quiet, dark place with an ambient temperature less than 25 degrees C.

You, native animals and the law

It is illegal for individuals to keep Australian native mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians in captivity except under licensing from NSW Parks and Wildlife. No person is allowed to care for native animals (eg raise an orphan) without an annual authority to act issued under the licence held by WIRES or another licenced wildlife rehabilitation organisation.