FAQs About Wildlife
Here you'll find answers to some of our most common questions.
Does Wildlife Victoria deal with non-native animals?
If you have found a non-native animal such as an introduced pigeon, deer, rabbit or fox, please be aware that Wildlife Victoria is only able to provide hands-on assistance with native animals. For assistance with non-native animals, including domestic animals such as cats or dogs, please contact the RSPCA on 9224 2222 or your local council.
How many calls does Wildlife Victoria receive?
During busy periods, like Spring and Summer, the Wildlife Victoria Emergency Response Service receives up to 300 calls a day.
How is Wildlife Victoria funded?
Wildlife Victoria is funded mainly by generous donations from individual donors. We also receive support from businesses, philanthropic trusts and foundations, bequests, and project grants. In 2019 the Victorian State government announced that it would make a contribution in 2019/2020 towards the operating costs of the Wildlife Victoria Emergency Response Service, which, during peak periods, receives hundreds of calls each and every day. Demand for the service continues to grow each year, so if you would like to make a donation to help maintian and grow this crucial community service, and help even more animals please click here.
Is wildlife protected by the law?
All native wildlife is protected under the Wildlife Act 1975. It is an offence to harm native wildlife or move them from where they are found. Wildlife Victoria is here to help wildlife that is orphaned, sick or injured but we are not able to relocate healthy animals. For more information please go to the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning website.
What do I do if I can visibly see the animal is injured?
If it is safe for you to do so, please consider taking the animal directly to your nearest veterinary clinic for assessment. Vets will not charge to see native wildlife. Use a towel or blanket to cover the animal, pick it up gently and firmly, and place it into a well-ventilated box for transport. Please keep the animal warm, dark and in a quiet environment. Do not transport the animal in the boot of your car or attempt to give any food/water.
As these animals are wild, some can be dangerous when injured or stressed. This includes larger animals and their young such as kangaroos, wallabies, wombats or koalas, but also fruit bats (flying-foxes), snakes and birds of prey. These animals should only be handled by an experienced rescuer or wildlife carer to avoid injury to you or further stress and injury to the animal. Please call our Emergency Response Service 03 8400 7300 as soon as possible. If you are able to do so, please stay with the animal and keep an eye on it from a short distance away while you wait for a volunteer to arrive.
I have found heat stressed wildlife what can I do?
During the summer months when we experience consecutive days of extremely high temperatures, many species of wildlife will suffer dehydration and exhaustion. Placing shallow containers of water around your yard during hot days and especially through heat waves really helps your local wildlife. Keeping your cats and dogs indoors also spares wildlife that may be more vulnerable and in a weakened state. If possums are on the ground looking for water during the daylight hours, they’ll be at a high risk of being preyed upon.
How to spot a heat stressed animal?
- Animals will appear lethargic, unresponsive or confused.
- Birds may pant with their mouths open and hold their wings out away from the body.
- Possums and koalas may come down to the ground seeking water during daylight hours.
- In serious cases, animals may present unconscious or convulsing.
In extreme cases of heat exhaustion where the animal is convulsing or unconscious or an animal is obviously injured the animal should be promptly transported in a ventilated container to your local vet clinic if it is safe for you to do so. Or alternatively log a case and we will look for a trained rescuer to retrieve the animal as soon as possible. Be mindful that animals may have burns on their feet from walking on hot tarmac or tin roofs and this would require veterinary attention.
If however the animal is showing signs of heat stress but is still conscious and uninjured, there are some steps you can take at home to try and help the animal recover and avoid the added stress of a trip to the vet:
If you have found a heat stressed animal please read the following advice and log a case.
Birds and Possums
If you’ve found an adult bird or ringtail possum (white tipped tail) suffering from heat stress and it’s safe to do so:
- Pick the animal up using a towel wearing protective gloves, place it in a box and take it inside to cool down in a dark, quiet and confined environment (When handling a bird you should also wear a face mask).
- Lay the animal on a damp towel and/or gently spritz the animal with ROOM TEMPERATURE water, avoiding drenching the animal. Do not wrap the animal in the damp towel.
- Provide a shallow dish of water for the animal to drink or lap from.
- If the animal appears unable to lap or drink, drip water onto the lips or beak using an eyedropper but do not squirt water into an animal’s mouth as this can cause choking.
- You can also hold a wet towel in front of a fan and allow the cool air to blow over the animal.
Keep in mind that any handling and interaction with humans is stressful to a wild animal so, please keep this to a minimum.
If the animal recovers (i.e. appearing alert, responsive, feisty, or vocalising) birds may be returned to where they were found once it has cooled down outside. Possums must not be released until after dark as they are nocturnal. They can be kept contained for the rest of the day and released at the base of the closest tree to where they were found. If however the animal shows no sign of improvement within one to two hours, please take it to your local vet clinic. Cool the car down before transporting the animal and please keep your radio off and all noise levels low to minimise the stress on the creature. If you are unable to transport the animal yourself please log a case and we will look for a trained volunteer to attend as soon as possible. Please remember that on extremely hot days we will be inundated with emergency calls and all our volunteers will be stretched to the limit so please assist the animal directly if you are able.
Grey-headed flying-foxes (also known as fruit bats) suffer terribly in the heat. It is important never to touch or handle a flying-fox under any circumstance as there is a risk of contracting Australian Bat Lyssavirus, a rare disease similar to rabies which can be transmitted through bites and scratches. If there is a bat entangled in your fruit tree netting, please log a case with us so we can send out a trained and vaccinated rescuer. If a bat is entangled on a hot day it can die of heat exhaustion very quickly. You can help keep it cool until our rescuer arrives:
- Providing shade with material or an outdoor umbrella.
- Spraying the animal intermittently with a mist or setting up a sprinkler to gently wet the animal
- If you are bitten or scratched seek medical attention immediately.
What do I do if I have found a young bird?
During spring, many of Victoria's young birds are going through the fledgling stage of their development. After fledglings emerge out of their nest, they can spend up to 2 weeks on the ground while learning to fly. During this period, they are still being fed by their parents and should not be interfered with unless obviously injured. Many swooping birds that people perceive as aggressive, are simply trying to be good parents. This protective behaviour lasts only a few weeks. You can protect yourself by wearing a hat or carrying an umbrella while in the area, see also our Fact Sheet on fledging birds and swooping birds.
What do I do if I have found ducklings?
Mother ducks are on the move in spring time, walking their clutch of ducklings for up to 2 days to search for food and water sources. They often hatch their young in suburban gardens and make their way to nearby parks, creeks and natural reserves. In most situations they do not need to be rescued and should be left alone and allowed to go on their way. See our fact sheet.
What do I do if I have found a possum?
If you have found a baby possum and its parents are nowhere to be seen, ring the Emergency Response Service on 03 8400 7300 to speak to an operator. The possum can be wrapped in something warm and soft and placed in a box in a quiet, dark area. You can keep it warm by filling a hot water bottle or drink bottle with hot water from the tap (not boiling water from the kettle), wrapping the hot water bottle in two layers of towel and placing it underneath the possum. Please do not attempt to give the possum anything to eat or drink. A possum that has been brought in by your cat will need to be assessed by a vet, even if it is not visibly injured.
What if I have an echidna in my garden?
Echidnas can travel up to 10km from their burrows per day, leaving their young behind for 5 to 7 days in search for food. If you see an echidna, please keep your dog inside the house. If the echidna is not injured, it will move on within 24 hours, so please be patient. If it’s injured, please call the Emergency Response Service on 03 8400 7300 for assistance.
I have flying-foxes (fruit bats) in my garden. What should I do?
These amazing animals are close to primates in intelligence and are a threatened species here in Victoria. They are essential to our eco-system and over 20 species of trees depend upon them for survival. If there are fruit bats feeding from trees in or near your garden, they are attracted to the temporary food source while the trees are fruiting or flowering and are not likely to be around for more than a few weeks. Netting thrown loosely over trees often causes fatal injuries when fruit bats become entangled and struggle desperately to escape. Wildlife-friendly alternatives are available. Click here for our fact sheet on grey-headed flying-foxes.
IMPORTANT: Please DO NOT handle a flying fox. Call the Emergency Response Service on 03 8400 7300 for assistance and wait for a trained and vaccinated rescuer to arrive.
What do I do if I have found a snake or another reptile?
Increased temperatures in Spring and Summer mean that snakes and other reptiles often come out to bask in the sun. Wildlife Victoria cannot relocate healthy animals so please consider calling a licensed snake handler.
Blue tongued lizards are harmless to people and benefit your garden by feeding on snails and slugs.
Did you know that you can help prevent your pet cat or dog from harming native wildlife?
Wildlife Victoria endorses responsible pet ownership. Please click here to view our fact sheet on Responsible Pet Ownership.
If your cat has brought you a possum or bird, it will require immediate veterinary attention, even if no injury is evident. Please take the injured animal to a nearby vet clinic as soon as possible or contact our Emergency Response Service on 03 8400 7300 for further assistance.
What do I do if I have found a turtle?
Turtles found wandering, even in suburban areas, are rarely escaped pets and are mostly wild animals. As long as the turtle is not injured, it can be transported in an escape-proof box to the nearest natural water source and released. If the turtle has a cracked shell or any other visible injuries please contact our Emergency Response Service on 03 8400 7300 for further assistance.
What if I find a dead animal?
If you find a dead native animal lying beside the road and you can safely do so, please pull over in a safe spot on the side of the road. Turn your vehicle off and contact our Emergency Response Service on 03 8400 7300 for further assistance. Many of our native animals are marsupials which means they carry pouch young, including kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, wombats and possums. Even if the adult animal has been killed, there is still a good chance that her pouch young may have survived, can be rescued, rehabilitated and released back to the wild. Click here for our fact sheet on Pouch Checking.
Where can I get a possum nesting box to place in my garden?
Installing a possum box in your garden is a great way to lend a helping hand to your local wildlife and a smart option to offer alternate accommodation to your house roof.
Wildlife Victoria have teamed up with Men's Sheds across Victoria to provide affordable possum boxes ready to install in your backyard tree! Click here to buy one for $55 now.
If you're the DIY type, you can find instructions to build your own nest box here