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Rescuing a Native Animal

Finding a sick or injured native animal or bird can be quite distressing but it may be possible to give the animal the best opportunity of survival with a little bit of quick thinking.  The main objective is to get the animal specialised treatment as soon as possible but in a way that doesn’t cause it any unnecessary stress or further injury.

Native animals and birds may get injured from attack by domestic or wild predators, being hit by vehicles or colliding with a glass window.  Young animals may also become orphaned leaving them vulnerable and at risk.

Injured animals should always be handled very carefully but as little as possible as this act alone adds to their fear and high levels of stress.  They should not be fed or given water unless advised to do so by a vet or animal expert.  Of course, the priority when attending to an injured animal is always your own safety so be sure to protect your hands and face and be aware of what’s going on around you, especially on a road or busy area.

Often young birds are found that appear to be orphaned so well-meaning people scoop them up thinking that they are doing the right thing but it is important to be absolutely sure that the bird is in fact abandoned.  Young birds that have their first feathers may have just left the nest for the first time and their parents are probably nearby keeping an eye on them and gathering food.  Young magpies will spend several days on the ground being cared for by their parents before they are ready to fly themselves.

To be absolutely sure that a bird is abandoned, watch from a distance to see whether a parent comes back or if the baby bird manages to flutter off on its own.  If it is remains on its own, try to find the nest and return the baby to that.  If the nest is too high to reach, put some soft material on one of the lower tree limbs as a temporary nest and keep a look out to make sure the parents return.  If the baby bird is being eyed off by a cat or dog, remove the pet instead of the bird so that it can remain safe whilst on the ground.

With so many buildings now having large windows and areas of glass, birds often fly directly in to them which can stun them or sometimes even kill them.  A stunned bird may recover after a couple of hours but should be handled as little as possible and be kept warm and in a quiet, dark place.  It is quite possible that it will perk back up and be ready to fly away to tell the others about its adventures.  If it doesn’t perk up after a few hours, contact the local vet or Wildcare.

A bird that has been injured from a dog or cat attack will need immediate veterinary assistance for both the puncture wounds, possible internal injuries and also the high risk from bacteria from the predator’s mouth.  Use an old towel or blanket to pick up the bird and carefully place it in a box or laundry basket.  Hold the bird with its wings close to its body and make sure you protect your own hands from being bitten or scratched.

Once the bird is in the box, use the towel to keep it dark and put the box in a quiet, warm place away from other animals.  Don’t give the bird food or water.  Contact the Wildcare Helpline immediately and they will give advice on the best place to take the animal.  If they are not available, take the animal to the local veterinarian who will provide treatment and then contact the correct wildlife services who will care for the bird and prepare it for release.

There is always a risk of either hitting or seeing another car hit a kangaroo when driving on country roads in WA.  If the adult is still alive but badly injured the best contact is the local Ranger who will attend to the animal, making sure that it is euthanised humanely if that is what is necessary.  Be careful when near an injured kangaroo though as no doubt it will be very fearful and may kick causing you serious injury.

Possums can also be hit by cars occasionally but they can also be attacked my cats and dogs or even injured from garden chemicals or rodent baits.  Since they are now so common in metropolitan areas, injured possums are seen more often by homeowners.

Both kangaroo and possum joeys can live in their dead mother’s pouch for up to three days and it is not unheard of for one to be found still attached to the teat.  If this is the case, it must not be removed and either needs to be transported whilst still inside its dead mother or the Wildcare Helpline should be contacted so that specialist treatment can be organised.

Larger joeys can be wrapped in a jumper, towel or blanket to be kept warm and this enclosed space will make them feel more secure.  If the joey feels cool to the touch or seems lethargic, hold it close to the body or fill a water bottle with hot water and wrap it in a towel to provide extra warmth.  Take it immediately to a veterinarian or call the Wildcare Helpline.

Do not attempt to feed either kangaroo or possum joeys and never give them cow’s milk as this causes blindness in marsupials.

Frogs may be injured from domestic animals, especially cats that find them a great source of amusement.  If a frog is found with injuries such as puncture marks, it can be transported to a veterinarian in a clean food container with holes in the lid but be careful not to handle the frog too much as the salt from human hands can cause it to become ill.

Bluetongues and smaller lizards are very common in WA, even in the suburbs, and they often come out to bask on paving, rocks and even roads making them vulnerable to vehicles and injury from children and pets.  To keep them safe, reptiles can be moved to a safer area but must remain within 10 metres of where they are found as some such as bluetongues and shinglebacks are very territorial and this act of goodwill may actually be the thing that causes their death.

Injured lizards that have puncture wounds or damaged limbs can be placed in a cardboard box and taken straight away to the local ranger or veterinarian.  Don’t turn the animal upside down whilst checking it over as this can cause problems with their breathing and be absolutely sure to protect your hands from bites.

Snakes should never be handled even if they are injured and the best thing to do in all circumstances is to move away and contact the ranger.

WILDCARE HELPLINE:  (08) 9474 9055
The Wildcare Helpline is an emergency number operated by the Department of Environment and Conservation and supported by Native Animal Rescue and other wildlife rehabilitators.  It provides a 24 hour, 7 day a week service manned by volunteers who can refer to one of over 300 registered wildlife rehabilitators.  It is worth storing this number in your mobile phone as you never know when you might need it.


  1. Handle native animals as little as possible as this can cause them stress.
  2. Use a towel, jumper or blanket to handle the animal and wear sunglasses and gloves for your own protection.
  3. Keep the animal in a warm, dark box or hessian bag in a quiet place.
  4. Seek expert advice immediately by contacting Wildcare on 08 9474 9055.
  5. Do not provide food, water or treatment unless advised to by a specialist.
  6. Wash your hands and clothes as soon as possible as native animals may harbor diseases.
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