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Wildlife First Aid Basics

Please exercise caution when handling native animals.  There are several diseases that can cross over from animals to humans (zoonosis). General hygiene like wearing disposable rubber gloves or thorough handwashing are usually sufficient to provide an effective barrier, but for further information and details, please go to the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment Tas.

If you choose to help an injured animal on the road, make sure it is safe to stop and get out of your vehicle.  Do not stop suddenly and always park carefully. You may have to walk back to the animal. You do not want to be responsible for causing an accident or become a victim yourself!

Be alert to traffic conditions at all times whilst attending an accident. Be aware that dark clothing is hard to see at night, and animals are often hit on sharp or blind corners. Put your hazard lights on and take a torch if you have one.  Never assume that there will be no traffic on a country road late at night.

Care of native wildlife is specialised and should not to be undertaken by anyone who has not received proper training.

Seek expert help as soon as possible

Numbers you can contact:

  • Wildlife Management Branch - 6165 4302
  • Ravenhill Raptor Recovery - 0409 978 064
  • Animal Cruelty Hotline - 1300 139 947
  • North-West Reptile & Creepy Crawly Club  0418 170 952
  • Snake Hotline - 0407 565 181
  • Your local RSPCA
  • Your local Vet
Photo of injured wildlife Photo of injured wildlife Photo of injured wildlife Photo of injured wildlife Photo of injured wildlife Photo of injured wildlife

Approach any injured animal with extreme care, they may be frightened and lash out or bite. It is best to approach an animal from behind, rather than front on.
A blanket, towel or coat placed over an animal's head will calm it down.

For your own safety, move the animal off the road as quickly as you can and seek expert.

Depending on the injury and situation, the animal may have to be put down on the spot, seek help if possible.

If you are describing the site over the phone, it is useful to remember that power poles have individual numbers, so as long as you can name the road, it may be possible for a rescuer to find the site using this method.

If you decide to rescue the animal, place it in a secure box or in a sack and tie it off securely. Pick animals up by the base of the tail close to where it meets the body and/or with your other hand firmly around the back of the neck, with the animal pointing away from your body. (Urinating is a common defence response by wild animals)

Animals have sharp teeth and claws so only pick animals up if you feel confident to do so.  Possums can climb up their own body lengths, so great care needs to be taken.

Some animals may just be stunned, and can 'come back to life', so don't be tempted to lay them on the back seat. If the animal comes around whilst you are driving, you may become a traffic statistic yourself.

If the adult animal is dead, check for pouch young.  Small joeys should be wrapped in  a soft, non-fluffy material and kept warm -- remember most wildlife will have parasites such as lice, fleas or ticks.  Get the animal to a vet as soon as possible for treatment.

Dead animals with undeveloped joeys in their pouches should be placed on their stomachs to prevent carrion eaters picking at the joey.

Rearing young furless joeys is extremely difficult and very traumatic to the joey and it is best to leave it with its mum -- it will die quickly as her body goes cold. With an older joey, remove it carefully from the teat so as not to damage its mouth.

Animals such as possums, carry their young on their backs after they reach a certain age, so check the bush nearby for a baby that may have been thrown clear.

After the accident:

Do not feed the animal but keep it warm and quiet in a box in a dark place until you can get expert help. Giving the wrong type of food may increase shock, and cause diarrhoea and further dehydration.

Call your vet, Wildlife Management Branch (DPIPWE), RSPCA or Wildlife Care network for instructions (see phone numbers above)

Young animals cannot generate enough heat to keep warm, so this needs to be provided by heat packs, hot water bottles etc to between 28 - 32°C.

Do not place young directly on heat sources -- they may get burnt or suffer heat stress.

Birds should be placed in a cardboard box and kept in the dark to prevent stress and further injury to wings and legs.

Unfeathered fledglings need to be warmed with a heat source, but be careful as they can overheat very quickly.

The biggest killers of young animals are shock, exposure and dehydration. The quicker you can get the animal to expert care, the better its chance of survival.

Important considerations:

  • Native wildlife should be rehabilitated back to the wild and NOT kept as pets. Releasing a domesticated native animal into the wild, may result in a gruesome and long drawn out death from starvation or injury.
  • Animals harbour parasites and diseases, which can cause harm to humans (zoonosis). Injuries such as bites or scratches must be treated effectively and immediately.
  • Wash hands after handling animals. All carers should ensure that they are up to date with tetanus injections.
  • Do not kiss or sleep with native animals.
  • Do not allow children to carry animals around, - this is extremely stressful to young joeys.
  • All Tasmanian native animals are protected by law, and with the exception of a few species, it is illegal to keep them without government authorisation (permit).
  • Children under 18 years are not legally permitted to care for native animals.
  • The male Platypus has venomous spurs. Leave the capture of an injured animal to an expert.
  • Only qualified handlers should deal with snakes. All three Tasmanian species are venomous 
  • Baby snakes are just as venomous as the adults, and freshly dead snakes should be treated with great care as the venom can still be toxic.
  • It is an offence to remove roadkill without a permit, however to prevent carrion eaters from being hit by vehicles, drag the dead animal off to the side of the road.