In wild summer heat

It’s been averaging 38C outside. Please spare a thought for our wildlife. Recent years are the hottest on record globally and research shows we are experiencing hotter, longer or more frequent heatwaves.

Water made available for wildlife during hot summer days and nights will be much appreciated. Photo supplied.

Water made available for wildlife during hot summer days and nights will be much appreciated. Photo supplied.

Our native animals are well adapted to high temperatures, but they can still get distressed during very hot days.

Wildlife can display unusual movements or behaviour when affected by the heat. Providing water and extra shade for the animals that visit your property is an obvious way to help.

Fill bird baths and place water bowls at ground level, with sticks or rocks laid for smaller creatures to climb in and out.

Small mammals

Kangaroos cool down by licking their arms, causing an evaporative cooling effect. If kangaroos or wallabies frequent your property and there is no dam, please put out additional bowls/buckets of water. Keep dogs under control and do not allow them to chase as this will cause exhaustion and myopathy (a disease caused by stress). If you find a kangaroo in your yard and it does not appear injured, please leave it alone, as it should move off during the cooler evening periods.

Merran Laver

Possums and gliders found at the base of a tree or in any unusual situation on hot days are likely to be dehydrated; ringtails are particularly susceptible.

One way to help an animal in trouble is to spray the area with mist from a hose and leave water available, on the ground and up in trees if possible.

Call Wildcare if the animal remains in the same location. Wildcare’s treatment will include cool housing, water and frozen treats (fruit or, for gliders, frozen native blossoms, roses or other flowers and foliage).

Echidnas will find a cool spot during the heat of the day, either in a log or by digging into soil or leaf litter.

If you find an echidna in a place where it cannot seek shelter or is wandering in the hottest part of the day, please call Wildcare for advice and possible rescue.

Koalas can also be affected by the heat, please report any unusual sightings.

Bats

Both flying foxes and microbats are prone to heat stress once the temperatures rise into the 40s. Microbats, being so tiny, can usually find a cool spot. If you find one inside the house or lying on the ground outside, please call Wildcare who will send a vaccinated rescuer.

Flying foxes are very likely to suffer heat stress and die if they cannot find a cool spot in their roosting trees. This happened recently in Queensland, where some 25% of the entire spectacled flying fox species died. Those in trees with a dense understorey can move down and take refuge where it is cooler; those without may need intervention. Please call Wildcare if you see flying foxes start to climb down the trees, whether there is an understorey or not, so we can assess the situation. Never spray bats with water, as this may cause them to take flight, further adding to their heat stress. If bats are on the ground, do not touch them – call Wildcare immediately.

Birds

Birds may be seen with open beaks, panting, or with their wings spread wide in an attempt to cool themselves. A bird suffering from heat stress will not fly away when approached and will allow itself to be caught. This indicates it is in trouble and needs our help. Dripping water onto its beak may encourage the bird to drink, but do not force this, as it could drown.

Reptiles

Although reptiles fare better in the heat than other animals, dehydration is still a risk. Leave out shallow bowls of water for them to find. They will seek shelter from the heat, so you might find lizards or snakes close to your house (under the verandah, in your shed). Please be understanding and don't chase them out – let them remain until it cools down and they’ll leave on their own accord.

Be quick to help turtles wandering overland, as they can get caught out and die if they don't find water. It is normal for them to explore on land but not in extreme heat, so please put them back into a nearby dam or creek.

Snakes need water too. Put out dishes of water on the ground away from the house so they can refresh and everyone stays safe. Keep pets’ water inside where possible to prevent dogs/cats and snakes from interacting.

Wombats

A wombat seen out of its burrow during the day may be in trouble and possibly affected by the heat. If they appear lethargic and unresponsive, with closed eyes, contact Wildcare for advice. Wombats might seek shelter under houses and in sheds.

They should move on at night; however, if they remain, please call Wildcare. Wombats with mange might also be seen out during the day.

Macropods

If kangaroos or wallabies frequent your property and there is no dam, please put out additional bowls/buckets of water. Kangaroos caught in a fence or that appear injured need to be reported to Wildcare.

Please always call Wildcare if you see a native animal in distress:

  • Wildcare rescue queries: 6299 1966