6 things Aussies can do to help wildlife right now.

Six things you can do to help wildlife survive summer.
Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated 15 December 2021

Australian summers can be tough for people and animals…

And while many of us can endure the hottest days with the help of air conditioning and plenty of fluids to keep us hydrated, our wildlife friends can suffer terribly during extreme heat, and even die.

Here are 6 ways you can help make the difference between life and death for wildlife during increasingly hot and dry Aussie summers:

1. Leave water out

Sweltering summer days can be uncomfortable to be outside in for just a few minutes. Imagine what it is like for animals who have no way of escaping the heat. During heat waves, native animals can suffer terribly and even die — but the simple act of providing them save access to water can help them cope.

  • Leave shallow dishes of water in the shade (try to avoid metal dishes unless they’re in full shade as they will get very hot in the sun)
  • If you can put some dishes high up/in trees this will help keep wildlife safe from predators.
  • Shallow bowls are best, as small birds can become trapped in deep dishes and drown (cat litter trays can actually be quite handy for this reason, and these are often found in discount stores for just a few dollars)
  • If you only have large bowls or buckets — be sure to place some large twigs or rocks/bricks inside to allow any trapped animals to make their way out.
  • If you have a bird bath, keep it clean and fresh

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Leaving water out can be a great help

2. Supervise companion animals

Our cats and dogs can put local wildlife at risk, but there are some simple ways to help protect them.  Consider using a cat enclosure that will keep wildlife safe and give your feline friend access to the outdoors. Train your dog to resist barking, chasing or confronting wildlife who visit your backyard and observe on lead directions when out.

This will enable thirsty wildlife to access water or recover from the heat safely.

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A safe backyard watering hole

3. Turn your backyard into a wildlife haven

With more land being cleared for highways and housing development, safe habitat for wildlife is rapidly diminishing. Consider installing nesting boxes in your backyard for wildlife to give shelter to hollow dwelling animals. You can also attract wildlife to your garden by planting native species of trees, flowers and shrubs. Doing this will provide food, shade and shelter for those who need it for many years to come.

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Cover your pool

4. Keep an eye out for heat stressed wildlife

If you spot any critters who look like they’re struggling, call your local vet as well as local wildlife group for help. Particularly during natural disasters (eg. bushfires), wildlife carers can be overwhelmed — and may ask you to contact your vet who can assess the situation and treat injured animals (for free).

  • Be particularly mindful at dusk and at night as many nocturnal animals will be more active during this time.
  • Prepare an emergency kit to keep in your car including a carry cage, a blanket/towel, and gloves.
  • Save a few local wildlife rescue contacts in your phone so that you can ring for advice in an emergency if you need it.
  • Here are some measures you can take to help reduce the chances of animals being hit on the road.

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Wildlife can experience heat stress during summer

5. Share your fruit trees with hungry wildlife

After extreme heat events and bushfires, Australias’s flying foxes are in desperate need of help. Pictured is a flying fox who came into emergency vets after bushfires ravaged his home. Having survived the terrible fires, and with so many of his normal food sources gone, he was hungry and searching for food. This is what happened.

Wildlife who have survived through Australia’s bushfire crisis are hungry. They have not only lost their homes, but their sources of food. And during this time of ecosystem devastation and habitat loss, it’s never been more crucial to protect species like flying foxes — because they’re the ones who pollinate trees. The more flying foxes we can keep healthy and happy, the better our ecosystems will survive and regenerate. So please, take down your tree netting, and share some love for wildlife by sharing your fruit trees

Help spread this important message across Facebook and Twitter.

IMPORTANT: If you come across an injured or heat-stressed flying fox (fruit bat) DO NOT TOUCH the animal. This is for the animal’s own safety. Instead, immediately call a wildlife carer for advice.

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Freeing a flying fox trapped in fruit netting

6. Know what to do if you find distressed or injured wildlife

If you have found an animal who is visibly distressed, wrap them loosely in a blanket or towel if it is safe to do so* and place them in a cardboard box, before placing the box in a dark, quiet, and cool place.

*Note that injured animals will often be quite frightened, so if you feel worried they may scratch or bite try gently ushering them into a washing basket without touching them instead of wrapping them in a blanket or towel.

Offer water but not food and call a wildlife carer immediately, or your local vet. Never pour water into an animals’ mouth — this is not natural and can cause additional distress and even physical harm. Instead, provide cool water in a bowl and allow them to lap from it.

DO NOT wrap heat stressed animals in wet towels or submerse in water — this can kill them.

If you see a marsupial dead on the roadside (possums, koalas, kangaroos and wallabies) there is a high chance that they could have a joey in their pouch who could have survived. If you’re not comfortable checking yourself, call your local wildlife rescue organisation for urgent assistance.

 

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Small brush tailed possum inside a pouch
Learn the signs of a heat stressed animal

What does a heat-stressed animal look like?

Some of the signs that a native animal is heat-stressed include:

  • Nocturnal (active at night) animals, such as possums, out during the day
  • Tree-dwelling animals such as koalas, on the ground
  • Birds or animals displaying any loss of balance, collapse, confusion or panting
  • If you come across a wild animal being docile — ie. if you can approach them and they don’t run away — this is a good sign that they are not well and need urgent care.