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 extra vulnerable 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?

  • Heat stressed animals will appear lethargic, unresponsive or confused.
  • Birds may pant with their mouths open and hold wings out away from their body.
  • Possums and koalas may come down to the ground seeking water during daylight hours.
  • In serious cases, animals may present convulsing or unconsciousness.


Wildlife Victoria-50In extreme cases of heat exhaustion where the animal is convulsing or unconscious, if an animal is obviously injured or if a possum appears to be a juvenile, 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 send 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 (it'll have a sleek, white tipped tail as pictured) 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 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 send a trained volunteer 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.


FLYING- FOXES

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 inoculated 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.


Thank you for caring for our native wildlife.