Wild Logic - Can You Keep Wildlife?
Wildlife Recue and First Aid
One great benefit of living in Australia is the fascinating range of wildlife that shares our gardens and suburbs with us.
Occasionally, you may find an injured or orphaned wild animal. What should you do with it and how can you tell if it is in need of rescuing?
When is nature calling?
Wild animals don’t like human beings. If you come across an animal that is inactive and easily captured, it is very likely to be quite unwell and in need of assistance.
Look out for birds that are unable to fly, or with a drooping wing. Possums and other nocturnal animals found out and about during daylight hours, and lizards or snakes that fail to run or slither away when approached could also be unwell.
If a wildlife animal is convulsing or moving in an aimless, uncoordinated way then it could be injured or affected by a poison or toxin. It is also likely to need assistance.
It is common to find animals that are limping or with obvious leg injuries. Assistance should usually be given to them. Also, a bird which fails to fly away with its flock and runs on the ground instead is likely to need help.
A word of caution
While you may have noble intentions, don’t expect the wild animal to respect your advances. Wild animals are often dangerous and you should be very cautious about approaching them.
You should be extremely cautious if you find an injured snake. Unless you really know what you are doing, capturing or caring for injured snakes is a job for the professionals. Leave it well alone! Your local government wildlife service, a wildlife rescue group or the RSPCA should be contacted in such cases.
Other wildlife species are also dangerous. Possums are extremely strong and have very sharp teeth. They are difficult to handle and will bite. Large birds including crows, kookaburras, parrots and cockatoos have powerful beaks that can inflict nasty injuries and many have vicelike grips with their talons too.
Large lizards, many marsupials and lots of other animals can also bite or cause injuries with their claws.
Capture and transport
Do you need to move the animal? Sometimes you would be better to leave the animal alone. Nestling (infant) birds are a special case. Many birds have a very poor sense of smell so placing a nestling back in its nest is the best help you can give. If you find a whole nest has fallen, wedge or wire it back in the tree as close as you can to the original position.
If you need to transport the animal to care for it, how are you going to do that? Place the animal in a cardboard box that is large enough to hold it comfortably - but not too large. If the box is too big, you will allow the animal too much movement and it may injure itself further. Keep the box in a dark location and make sure it is warm. Gentle warmth can be provided by putting in the box a hot water bottle or a plastic drink bottle filled with warm (not boiling) water. Be sure to cover any such bottle with towelling to prevent direct burns.
Wild animals don’t like humans. Unlike pet animals, they don’t like being cuddled or patted. Therefore, after capture, handle the animals as little as possible.
Releasing the animal
If you are successful in rearing the animal, you need to be cautious about its release. Many native animals are very territorial, especially possums, and placing a carefully nurtured animal into unfamiliar territory can be a fatal move. It is usually better to place the animal back into the very location from which it came.
Alternatively, for possums and some other species, look for another of the same species killed on the road. As gruesome as this may sound, it indicates a vacant territory and releasing your healthy animal at that location is likely to be more successful.
Can you keep wildlife?
Native wildlife is protected by state legislation and before you consider keeping a wildlife animal, contact your local government wildlife service to check on their regulations as they vary from state to state.
By Dr Cam Day BVSc - Last updated