Farmers get hay for drought as wildlife gets rough end of the stick, say carers

WORSENING drought is hitting wildlife across Queensland and NSW, drawing animals closer to roads and towns and triggering a big jump in calls to rescuers.

PARCHED: Thirsty kangaroos gather for a drink at a residential fountain in Gunnedah as the drought's grip tightens. Photo: Peter Lorimer

PARCHED: Thirsty kangaroos gather for a drink at a residential fountain in Gunnedah as the drought's grip tightens. Photo: Peter Lorimer

With all of NSW declared in drought, competition for grazing for kangaroos has intensified.

Last month RSPCA Queensland Wildlife Hospital manager Lee Pirini said August and September was a time when wildlife was typically more mobile and at risk of dog attacks or being hit by cars.

“Since the beginning of July we have had 75 koala related crisis calls,” she said.

“But of course it’s not just koalas. It’s the breeding and birthing season for native wildlife. Strong winds can also contribute with baby birds being blown out of trees and onto areas where they’re at risk of being attacked by dogs and cats.”

South-west Logan wildlife carer Alma Searle has documented multiple cases of injured kangaroos, wallabies, feather-tailed gliders and birds on Greenbank Road and surrounding areas.

Christie Jarrett, vice chair of the NSW Central West branch of WIRES rescue service, said drying or dying trees had also cut the moisture available to marsupials as koalas and possums.

While farmers were often given bales of hay to keep stock going, wildlife got the rough end of the stick.

SLIM PICKINGS: An emu cock and his chicks struggle to find pickings in northern NSW. Photo: Peter Lorimer

SLIM PICKINGS: An emu cock and his chicks struggle to find pickings in northern NSW. Photo: Peter Lorimer

Based about halfway between Orange and Bathurst, Ms Jarrett's WIRES branch has registered a big rise in calls to treat kangaroos. So far this year, her team has rescued or had to euthanise 722 roos, up from 440 for all of 2016.

She said drivers should pay special heed particularly at night as kangaroos gravitated to roadsides in search of grass.

Likewise, fringes of towns and cities are likely to see more animals so long as the rain holds off, Ms Jarrett said. “We need it desperately.”

Mardi Cook, a coordinator with WIRES New England in Armidale, said there was just no living creature that was not affected.

Koalas were on the move as trees wilted and leaves became less nutritious, leaving them at risk of attack from dogs or being hit by cars.

Birds like owls and tawny frogmouths also were being found in poor health or injured after chasing mice to roadside verges, Ms Cook said.

One challenge was to find properties where animals could be released after care.

“We've had animals coming home for a feed after release,” Ms Jarrett said. “That's unusual.”

Another is that more farmers had been given licences to shoot ‘roos to reduce numbers, resulting in additional calls to care for badly injured animals or surviving offspring. “It's a really bad situation,” Ms Jarrett said.

With many marsupials carrying young in pouches – like roos, wombats, possums and koalas – people finding a struggling animal should check for any joey that might be alive, she said.

Other steps to help wildlife include putting out shallow bowls of water or appropriate feed. Longer term, planting native trees and plants will increase food sources.

She said the impact of the drought would implications for wildlife for years to come.

Those seeking an animal rescue or to make a donation to WIRES can ring 1300 094 737.

SMH, JIMBOOMBA TIMES

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