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Helping Wildlife

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Helping wildlife in emergencies | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Helping wildlife in emergencies

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment works with the community and wildlife rehabilitation groups to rescue and care for injured and distressed native wildlife in an emergency, such as prolonged drought or after fire or flood.

We provide additional support and coordination to wildlife rehabilitation groups and work with experts to assess the health and status of affected plant and animal populations and develop and license recovery actions, such as supplementary feeding, emergency collection and captive breeding programs.

How you can help

Only licensed wildlife rescue and rehabilitation providers or qualified vets may take injured or orphaned native animals into care. You can use the IFAW Wildlife Rescue App to quickly find the closest one to you to contact. Most wildlife is not used to being handled and can become very stressed. If you find an injured animal, and it is safe to do so, contain it in a covered box in a dark, quiet place while waiting for a rescuer or taking an animal to a wildlife carer or vet.

During an emergency such as drought, fire or flood some native animals may need short term help. Although not injured, they may need access to water, food or shelter until their natural environment recovers. Only provide water or food for native wildlife if you have the permission of the land owner or manager, including in national parks, state forests, council and crown land.

Providing water

Many animals can only survive a matter of days without water. You can help a range of native animals by giving them a safe supply of clean water, changed daily to prevent the spread of disease. Never add electrolytes or sugar to the water as it can be harmful. 

Considerations for water containers

Use:

  • containers or water dispensers put in the shade, at a range of heights, including in trees
  • strong containers to avoid collapse with a stable rock or stick in them to give safe access out of the water for birds and reptiles
  • firm surfaces to put the containers on, so they don’t tip if a heavy animal tries to use it
  • a cleared area with shade to allow nervous wildlife to watch out for predators and keep cool.

Swimming pools can present a danger to thirsty wildlife if no other water source is available. Keep your pool covered or secure a flotation device to the side of the pool such as a rope threaded through a pool noodle to allow wildlife to escape if they fall in while drinking. Check it daily.

There are simple watering stations you can set up. Try making a wildlife watering pod for small mammals and reptiles to use.

Providing food

Feeding native animals is generally not recommended because they have very special and diverse dietary needs. Although it’s always best for the health of wildlife to forage for food and water naturally, in times of natural disaster when natural food resources are scarce, you may want to help by providing food. Only supplementary feed until nature begins to recover. If there is still vegetation, providing water only is the best way you can help.

Remember:

  • What can be offered to one animal in small amounts may be harmful to another and could result in debilitating disease or even death. Over feeding can be fatal. Always offer fresh water.
  • Remove uneaten food. Wash your hands before and after cleaning and drying all food and water containers. Change them daily to prevent the spread of disease and attracting pests. Disinfect containers using a dishwasher or by soaking them in a solution of one cup of bleach added to four litres of water. 
  • Secure food containers in trees. Never throw food, including bird seed, directly onto the ground as it attracts predators and can make some wildlife sick. 
  • Never feed wildlife bread, honey, sugar, avocado, chocolate or dairy products as they are very harmful. 
  • Do not feed wildlife mixtures of peanut butter, honey and rolled oats (known as bait or wildlife balls) as they are harmful to some animals.

Suitable foods

AnimalsUse in small amountsDon’t useTips
Kangaroos, wallabies, pademelons and wombats

Macropod pellets (rural supply stores). If not available, use high fibre horse pellets (not high performance) or macropod muesli

Leafy green vegetables

Pony, high performance or stud mixes with rice, sugar or pollard (too rich)

Lucerne

Grass or oaten hay (weed risk)

Brassicas, such as cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower

Do not hand feed

Scatter food early morning and evening in small amounts – only replace as needed

Provide fresh water

Sweet potato and carrot may be harmful for some macropods

Eastern pygmy possums

Sugar, squirrel, feathertail and yellow-bellied gliders 

Native plants and flowers

Small amounts of sweet potato, pumpkin.

Some pear, red apples or melons (seeds removed)

Insect meal (pet food store)

Sugary foods

Rolled oats, peanut butter or honey

Omnivores, so need a varied diet.

Place in fork of tree after sunset

Do not encourage to come to the ground to feed as they are vulnerable to predation

Brushtail and ringtail possums 

Native plants and flowers

Small amounts of sweet potato or pumpkin

Fruit or too much starchy vegetable is harmful

Rolled oats, peanut butter or honey

Place in fork of tree after sunset

Mainly folivores (leaf eating).

Greater gliders

Rabbit pellets

Eucalyptus foliage

Rolled oats, peanut butter or honey.

Place food in fork of tree after sunset

Carnivorous and insectivorous marsupials such as:

Antechinus, bandicoots, native rats and other rodents

Insect meal (pet food shops)

Finely chopped starchy vegetables

Mealworms (small amount)

Meat

Rolled oats, peanut butter and honey

Scatter beneath the leaf litter or place under logs where nothing larger than a bandicoot can reach

Provide water

Seed and grain eating birds including parrots, cockatoos, galahs, finches

Good quality wild bird blocks with large and small seeds hung in trees

Fruit with seeds removed such as apples, pears, melons hung in trees

Black or grey sunflower seeds as they can make birds sick

Seed mixes other than wild bird mix or blocks

Do not scatter seed on the ground. It attracts predators and make other species sick

Dispose of decomposing fruit, soiled seed before replacing

Honeyeaters

Insect meal or nectar mix placed in fork of tree

Do not offer water and sugar or honey mixes

Do not leave foods on the ground as birds may be attacked by predators

Reptiles (lizards)

Insect meal or finely chopped vegetables placed in the fork of a tree

Meat

Create using logs, rocks and leaves.

 Flying foxes  Chopped apple, pear, melon, grapes (seeds removed) hung in trees   Meat, vegetables or sugary foods

Use a wire garland

Dispose of rotting food

* Do not approach flying foxes without vaccination for Australian bat lyssavirus and rabies, and wearing protective gear. Seek urgent medical advice if scratched.

Suitable foods table developed in consultation with ecologists, wildlife veterinarians, wildlife nutritionists and licensed rehabilitators based on the current knowledge for emergency situations.

Providing shelter

You can help by making your garden wildlife-friendly by growing native food plants and creating shelter and habitat by using logs, rocks and nest boxes. Find out more about living with native animals.

Remember to keep cats, dogs and children at play away from the areas you are providing water, food or shelter. Cats quickly learn where wildlife are congregating and may stalk them.