Southern Cross Wildlife Care - Critters of the Month 2015 

 Southern Cross Wildlife Care Critter of the Month - January 2015           

Don’t fence me in...

Late one Friday night, something must’ve spooked this little water dragon. He was bolting away through the bush and came across a wire fence. He scampered through a gap, but only his front half would fit. His large back legs couldn’t follow... 

Stuck there, with no way through, all he could do was struggle. 

Who knows how long he was there, battling to free himself. Thank goodness for his rescuers who cut him free of his wiry prison and brought him to us.

The first thing we did was administer pain relief. His leg wounds were deep and he’d rubbed his back raw trying to get free. 

We cleaned and debrided his wounds and applied antiseptic ointment. Then we dressed the wound with special vaseline gauze, non-stick dressings and vet wrap. 

He had antibiotic injections to guard against infection. 

Did you know that water dragons can submerge themselves underwater at the bottom of creeks or even swimming pools for up to 90 minutes!
Did you know that during breeding season, the males’ chests turn bright red!
Our little guy had lost a considerable amount of blood during his ordeal and we didn’t know how long he’d been without food or water. As such, we decided to give him some subcutaneous fluids for dehydation and fluid replacement.
Poor little boy looks like he’s wearing a nappy. 

His wounds will require regular dressing changes and he will need to visit us regularly for antibiotic injections. 

We imagine he won’t make the mistake of clambering through the fence again...

By Lynleigh Greig
Southern Cross Wildlife Care

 Southern Cross Wildlife Care Critter of the Month - February 2015           

    Gloria Goes Free
Gloria was only a little joey when she first arrived in our surgery in July 2014.  We aren’t sure what caused the deformity, but both her feet were twisted and both her middle toes were facing the wrong direction! 

She had to undergo corrective orthopaedic surgery and her feet were tension-strapped.

On this particular visit, she was having her strapping changed, about a month post-op.

She was such a good patient. She sat patiently whilst Dr Howard Ralph removed her bandages and checked to see how her toe-alignment was progressing.

Her lovely carer, Jan, comforted her as her tension strapping was replaced. Little joeys form a bond with their carers, akin to that of mother and child.  In the absence of her kangaroo mother (who was killed in a vehicle collision) Jan became Gloria’s mum. 
The benefit of being a veterinary surgeon is that you get to cuddle your patients at the end of a consultation. And sometimes the patients are happy to reciprocate. Gloria, thankfully, was one of them :)
Gloria continued with her rehabilitation for some weeks, coming back intermittently for dressing changes. Her feet continued to grow - in the right direction - as she grew. 
Long-term patients build up a relationship with their doctors. Gloria had full trust in Dr Ralph and never became anxious at any of her consultations. 

Interesting Fact:
The female eastern grey kangaroo is usually permanently pregnant. However, she has the ability to freeze the development of an embryo until the previous joey is able to leave the pouch. This is known as diapause, and will occur if there is a shortage of food or in times of drought. In addition, the mother is able to produce two different kinds of milk simultaneously - one type for the newborn and a different type for the older joey still in the pouch. 

Isn’t that amazing?                                         

Gloria’s lovely carers travelled from far to bring her to her appointments and their post-surgery care of Gloria was second-to-none.

Being a joey’s Mum is not an easy caper...! It’s an 18-month commitment and they require round-the-clock care when they are small. 
We gave her red and white ‘socks’ which made her look like she was a Sydney Swans supporter :)

Doesn’t she look the picture of happiness?

This is how one of Gloria’s feet looked before the surgery. We think it must’ve become deformed inside the pouch as she grew. 
In November of 2014, Gloria was moved into her pre-release pen - as normal and as healthy as any other eastern grey kangaroo. 

She was released this week and we are proud to say that she went back to the wild in much better shape than when she left it!

By Lynleigh Greig
Southern Cross Wildlife Care

 Southern Cross Wildlife Care Critter of the Month - March 2015           

    Falling for Zayd

Just because he’s sharp, bitey and sand-papery doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. This is Zayd and he’s a lace monitor. More commonly known as a goanna.

He was an unwanted guest in a Pymble backyard and was the victim of some vigorous bullying. Having rocks thrown at his head resulted in a big fall from a eucalypt tree and he was knocked unconscious.
He was brought in by a rescuer and we treated him immediately. He was given corticosteroids for the head trauma, antibiotics for his open wounds and plenty of subcutaneous fluids for blood-loss. Luckily his mandibles weren’t damaged which meant he was able to eat without the help of a naso-gastric tube...
With our x-ray machine out of order, we were able to get assistance from the wonderful Dr David Vella who did x-rays on his spine. Luckily nothing sinister showed up on the x-rays so his prognosis for recovery was very positive.

He almost looks happy in this photograph. Might’ve had something to do with the 4 steaks and 2 large rats he had for dinner 2 nights later. 
Lace monitors are the second-largest monitor in Australia after the perentie. They can be as long as 2.1m. They are essential for cleaning up the environment. They will scavenge food, eat roadkill and take live prey, too.Their diets typically consist of other smaller reptiles, some insects, small mammals, birds, and birds' eggs. They are also carrion eaters, feeding on already dead carcasses of other wildlife.

After a week in care, Zayd was getting a tad antsy-pantsy to be back in the wild...! Do you think he’s trying to tell us something in this photo?
Once he started showing interest in food and regaining his coordination we thought it best to take him to the far reaches of his home range (far from the site where he sustained his injuries). 

Lace monitors are wondrous creatures. We do, however, recommend keeping a bit of distance between you and them as they can be rather scratchy if they try to climb you like a tree...! 

Goodbye our little ‘beaded’ boy :)

By Lynleigh Greig
Southern Cross Wildlife Care

 Southern Cross Wildlife Care 

       Critter of the Month - April 2015           

 Hairy eye-balls...! 

“Dopey” got his dubious name for two reasons:
1. He was one of 7 little ‘dwarves’ who were orphaned;
2. He came in with unusually dopey-looking eyes.

He was brought to Dr Howard Ralph for a consultation about a month ago. Dr Ralph did a raft of eye tests to check for signs of deep penetrating injuries and to see if his retinae were still intact and free from scarification. 

He was diagnosed with entropion of the upper eyelids and ectropion of the lower eyelids. Entropion occurs when the eyelids begin to roll inwards, causing the eye-lashes and fur to irritate the cornea. Ectropion occurs when the eyelids begin to roll outwards, exposing the lacrimal puncta to bacteria. 

Left untreated, entropion would cause damage to the clear part of Dopey’s eye (cornea), it would lead to eye infections and eventual loss of vision.  So he was scheduled for surgery to reverse both conditions.

We anaesthetised Dopey for his procedure and 
Dr Ralph began the impossibly difficult task of operating on those miniscule eyelids. Dopey is only a baby ringtail with tiny eyes so it was a very stressful procedure for the team. It was a 2-hour operation.

Poor Dopey had to have his eyebrows and forehead fur shaved for the procedure so he looked a bit strange when he came out from under anaesthetic...!

He went home to his carer with instructions to give twice-daily pain relief and twice-daily antibacterial eye drops.

This week Dopey came back for a check-up. The swelling was well down and the eyelids were looking better. 

The left eye, however, will be requiring further surgery as the entropion hadn’t quite been completely reversed. Dopey has been scheduled for round 2 on Easter Monday. 

We will post another update when he has completed his second round of surgery.
Dopey has returned to his gang of buddies and he was swamped with love and cuddles (he’s the grey one in the middle of the reddish ones).

Ringtail possums are very gregarious little creatures that fret when they are without others of their own species. We didn’t want him to be apart from his gang for a lengthy period. 
We are confident that he will soon be free of the irritations of the entropion and will be another successful patient, free to enjoy his life in the wild.

By Lynleigh Greig
Southern Cross Wildlife Care

 Southern Cross Wildlife Care 

       Critter of the Month - May 2015           

 Rasputin’s Rescue
Night-time rescues are always tricky. Especially when the victim is a venomous snake - trapped, injured and terrified!

Adrian, one of Sydney Wildlife’s amazing snake rescuers, dashed out at around 10pm last Tuesday night after a report of a red-bellied black snake caught in bird netting. The poor thing had been struggling for around 2 whole days and nights.
People cover their vegetables and fruit trees in this hideous netting to stop the birds and possums from raiding. The results for wildlife are disastrous...

This poor snake was probably chasing a frog or a skink and got himself entangled in this awful, constrictive netting. If you are someone who uses this netting, I urge you to undertake this challenge: Grab a roll of cotton thread for sewing. Now wrap a small section tightly around your finger and see how quickly you become frantic to be rid of it... It has absolutely no flexibility and constricts tighter the more you struggle.
Adrian spent almost a whole hour cutting the poor snake free of his bonds. You can see how swollen his head had become and how deep the lacerations around his neck were. 
With every piece that was cut, the snake breathed out visibly as though he was experiencing great relief. 

He sat like a complete gentleman and allowed Adrian to free him, bit by excruciating bit.
It was close to 11:30pm by the time the job was complete and the red-belly was placed on a heat-mat in a soft pillow-slip to rest.
Adrian gave oral fluids but he knew that the snake (now named Rasputin) needed professional treatment.  He contacted SCWC and we arranged for the snake to be treated first thing in the morning. As Adrian works full-time, his brother Bruce was tasked with transporting Rasputin to us.

Dr Howard Ralph cleared the decks for this emergency and had Rasputin under anaesthetic within minutes of his arrival. 

He had lost a lot of fluid and was close to suffering from dehydration so he was given parenteral fluids with B-Complex immediately. Then Dr Ralph set about debriding and cleaning up his wounds. His eye was also damaged so he cleaned that up and applied antibiotic ointment. 

He was given long-acting intramuscular antibiotic injections and pain relief.

Rasputin was sent home with a carer who has experience in giving intramuscular injections. His treatment plan included antibiotic injections every third day, pain relief, more parenteral fluids, eye ointment and warmth for recovery. 

Rasputin doesn’t really look forward to injection days but he endures it and is ever the gentle giant.            
We make use of transparent tubes when undertaking treatment of venomous snakes - for our safety as well as the comfort of the snake. Pinning them down or using tongs is painful - especially if they have head and neck injuries. We just slide the tube over the snake’s head and hold him in there during treatment. We use a local anaesthetic gel topically before injecting to ensure minimal discomfort. 

Rasputin’s head swelling has diminished considerably and he is moving around happily and drinking independently.

We envisage that he will be well enough for release in a week’s time.

Other critters that are often net-caught include bats, possums, lizards and harmless little snakes such as green tree snakes as well as many birds.

Please, please use wildlife-friendly netting which is available at Bunnings. It is tightly-woven - almost like pantihose and will save many lives.

By Lynleigh Greig
Southern Cross Wildlife Care

 Southern Cross Wildlife Care 

       Critter of the Month - June 2015           

                                                        Wee little Wombat                 
Sadly, Sarah’s story is not unusual. It’s a story that is becoming more and more common on our busy roads. It is happening right now somewhere in Australia...

An animal is hit by a car. The driver continues on their way, oblivious to the fact that inside the pouch of the mum they’ve just killed is a tiny baby, still fighting for life.

If nobody had stopped, little Sarah would’ve died a slow death from starvation and cold. Or she could’ve been dragged from her mum’s pouch and eaten alive by foxes. 

Luckily for Sarah, though, her story didn’t end in tragedy. In fact, little Sarah became somewhat famous...!         
A wildlife carer was on her way to Southern Cross Wildlife Care with a car full of patients for Dr Howard Ralph. On the side of the road, she saw the wombat that had been hit and stopped to check for pouch young. There was Sarah. Bruised and terrified.

She became the fifth patient in the car.

Dr Howard Ralph gave Sarah a thorough health-check. Aside from the abrasions and superficial wounds, however, Sarah was miraculously well. Howard’s wonderful wife, Glenda, fell instantly in love with Sarah and became her new mum. 

Baby wombats can make a LOT of washing...! Apart from feeding Sarah around the clock - night and day - Glenda found she was washing pouches, towels and face-washers after almost every feed...! At one stage, she considered just popping Sarah in the washing machine :)

Female wombats give birth to a single baby in spring, after a gestation period of around 20–21 days. The ‘jelly-bean’ offspring crawls into the mum’s pouch and stays there, suckling, for about six to seven months. They are weaned after 15 months, and are sexually mature at 18 months. 

The mums have a backwards-facing pouch so that the baby doesn’t get covered in dirt and mud when she is digging in the sand. 
Wombats live in underground burrows and are herbivores, feeding mainly on grasses, sedges, roots, bark and some herbs.

Wombats have an extraordinarily slow metabolism, taking around 8 to 14 days to complete digestion! They generally move slowly, but when threatened, can reach speeds of up to 40 km/h and maintain that speed for up to 90 seconds!

Sarah’s brush with fame occurred when miniature “wildlife warrior”, Kayleigh Greig, took her to meet NSW Premier Mike Baird, in an attempt to spotlight the plight of our wildlife being killed on our growing number of roads and highways. 

She was an ambassador for orphaned wildlife and her cuteness was hard to resist...! 
Kayleigh is campaigning for a “mobile animal hospital/ambulance” to be will be available to rush to the aid of animals that are injured on our roads. She was requesting support from our Government. Sarah was the cute back-up :)                                       

Cuddling our Premier wasn’t nearly as fun as cuddling Dr Howard Ralph, however, and she was happy to be home with her adoptive parents after the day’s adventures into the big city. 

Little Sarah is becoming more and more playful as the days pass - much like a naughty puppy! She trots around the surgery, biting people’s ankles, chewing shoes and making a general nuisance of herself. But she is loved by all who meet her and we look forward to watching her grow into a big wombat and hopefully having babies of her own some day...
Please Remember: If you hit an animal on the road, stop and check for pouch-young. The babies can often survive, even if the mum is killed.

By Lynleigh Greig
Southern Cross Wildlife Care

 Southern Cross Wildlife Care 

       Critter of the Month - July 2015           

Torn-up Tawny

Dear little Eglantine arrived at the surgery after having been rescued from a barbed-wire fence. She had flown too low to catch a moth and become caught in the rusty barbs. 

Struggling to free herself, she had managed to tear the skin on her left wing and scraped her chest flesh.

She’d been in care for at least a week by the time she came to us. Her carer had noticed that she couldn’t use her wing, despite the fact that she only had superficial wounds, and no fractures.
Dr Ralph examined the damage and started to remove feathers that had become enmeshed in the healing tissue. 

It soon became apparent that there was more damage than just superficial scratches, however. So we had to anaesthetise Eglantine and explore further. 

Dr Ralph had also noticed some stridor (noisy breathing) and took a swab from her trachea. The swab showed candida in her lungs. She was put on ketaconazole to treat the fungal infection.
Under anaesthetic, Dr Ralph removed the dead tissue and matted feathers and cleansed the area thoroughly. In trying to heal, the tissue had started to enmesh incorrectly, causing fixed flexion deformity in the wing - meaning that she could not fully extend her wing for flight. Dr Ralph had to undo the incorrect healing and then suture the open wound. 

She was given an injection of long-acting antibiotics and some oral antibiotics to send home with her carer.           
Eglantine had to have her wound dressed and strapped to prevent further damage. After the bandages were removed, she was in need of some flight practise. She was transferred to Waratah Park - Sydney Wildlife’s rehabilitation facility for wildlife in their last phase of recovery. She is currently flapping around in a large aviary and will be released after her final veterinary check-up on Wednesday.
Tawny frogmouths often get hit by cars when they see a moth flying in the headlights of vehicles. They swoop to catch the moth and get smashed. Then they come to us with significant concussion.

They are also quite prone to getting rat lungworm disease. Affected rats defecate and then snails and slugs that slide over the faeces become infected. Tawny frogmouths then eat the snails/slugs and become sick with the parasite. 

Toxoplasmosis is another disease they often contract. 

The tawny frogmouth is often called an owl, but they are actually part of the nightjar family.

By Lynleigh Greig
Southern Cross Wildlife Care

 Southern Cross Wildlife Care 

       Critter of the Month - August 2015    

Ringtail Rescue
This is a very dehydrated and extremely tiny ringtail joey. He was dropped from his Mum’s pouch when the tree they were sleeping in was being pruned. Luckily the landscaper on-site saw the tiny bundle drop out and rushed over to save him. It doesn’t take long for such a small joey to become cold and dehydrated outside of the mum’s pouch. His rescuer, Joe, wrapped him up in a towel he had in the car and rang for help. 

Most ringtail mums have twin babies but triplets have been known to occur, so it’s possible that Joe has siblings.
Depending on the area, mating season can take place anywhere between April and December; the majority of young being born between May and July. Gestation is around 28 days. Ringtail females are poly-oestrous and poly-ovular. If a female prematurely loses her litter, she can return to oestrous and produce a second litter in October as a replacement - if conditions are right.                                                                                                    
Since his rescuer was named Joe and he is a joey, we decided that his name should also be Joe :)

The first thing we had to do was get Joe warmed up. No medications or food could be administered whilst he was still so cold. He could’ve gone into a humidicrib but he was very scared so we opted for a heat-pack and body-contact with one of our volunteers. Hearing a heartbeat and having warmth from a consistent source was vital for Joe.  
Once he’d been sufficiently warmed, we gave him some warm glucose-saline subcutaneously to help him catch up with his hydration and increase his blood sugar levels. Then he was treated for possible neurological symptoms as a result of his fall.

We also smothered the little guy in pseudo pouch grease for extra insulation. At this stage of their development, they have no fur to keep them warm so the pouch grease helps to retain heat and also moisturise their delicate skin.

Feeding Joe presented some challenges. With such a tiny mouth, none of our teats were small enough for him. We had to use cannula-tubing attached to a 1ml syringe to get the milk into the tiny-tot. 

He took to it like a champ!
It has now been 4 days since Joe’s big fall and separation from his mum. Whilst his prognosis for survival is guarded, at best, he is putting up a good fight!

We are hoping that he will grow to be a big cheeky boy in the wild...

A little bit more about ringtail possums:

You can see in this photograph, Joe’s long curly tail - also known as a prehensile tail which normally displays a distinctive white tip on the last third of its length. This long tail aids with grasping branches and holding nesting material. The back feet are syndactyl (two toes are fused) which helps the possum to climb. 
Ringtail Possums have a day time faeces and a night time faeces. Baby Ringtail Possums often ‘pap’ i.e. re-ingest the daytime faeces to produce 
the useful bacteria in their guts.  When the babies are very small, the mothers ‘pap’ for them. 

Ringtails feed almost exclusively on foliage and flowers once they are weaned. Their favourites being bottle brush, melaleuca, coastal tea tree and kunzea. 

One day we hope Joe will be feasting on native plants and climbing around in the trees, too.

By Lynleigh Greig
Southern Cross Wildlife Care

 Southern Cross Wildlife Care 

       Critter of the Month- September 2015: Don’t Beam Me Up, Scotty!

An ‘overseas’ rescue!  
The destination:  Scotland Island.
The patient:  a gravely ill diamond python.

It’s 8:30am and we get a call-out from a lady, Emma,  who has noticed that one of the island’s local pythons has been lying in the same spot beside the road for 3 days.  We immediately set off for the ferry wharf.  The ferries leave every hour so we have to get there quickly or risk wasting another hour before reaching our patient.

As we arrive, the ferry is blowing its horn and pulling away from the jetty.  With an almighty leap across the water, we are aboard and on our way to rescue the poor little critter.  
Scotland Island is bigger than anticipated and we are thankful that Emma provided us with a map.  There are no road names, just landmarks on the hand-drawn map.  And the entire walk is uphill - not just slightly steep, but 45-degree-angle-steep.  Puff!  Puff!  We get to the section of the map marked “Devil’s Elbow” and we know we are close...
Exactly as described, 20m from Devil’s Elbow, we see the poor python lying half on and half off the road.  We pick him up, expecting a bit of attitude, but he is deathly cold and his head lolls to one side.  Are we too late?
We bundle him up into the snake bag and run for the return ferry.  We try to keep “Scotty” in the sunshine to raise his body temperature.  

We know that there is no point starting any form of treatment until his body temperature increases.  Unfortunately reptiles do everything slowly...

Back on the mainland, we rush Scotty to the clinic and pop him into a hospital tub with a heat-mat.

Diamond pythons really are the darlings of the snake world.  They are non-venomous, non-aggressive and extremely placid to handle.  We’ve only ever had one or two that were feisty. 

The average adult size is between 2m and 3m.  They are predominantly black in colour with beautiful yellow diamond clusters on their dorsal side.  

They are referred to as arboreal (tree-dwelling) but are often spotted coiled up in sheds, pool-houses, stables etc.  Their diet consists of rats, possums, bandicoots and other small mammals.  

Diamond pythons are plentiful all over Sydney and its surrounds.  

When Scotty is sufficiently warm, Dr Ralph undertakes a clinical examination.  Poor Scotty is so dehydrated that the first treatment Dr Ralph administers is warm parenteral glucose-saline infused with B-complex.  
He has a disseminated bacterial infection which has resulted in erythematous lumps all over his body.  Scrapings from one of the lumps confirms that pus cells, bacteria and fungi are present.  

He also has stomatitis - inflammation of the gums.

Dr Ralph checks his vital signs and is not pleased with his patient’s condition.  

An injury which becomes infected and not treated can spread into the blood.  From the blood, the infection can be disseminated to any part of the body.  The result is life-threatening sepsis.  

Scotty can hardly keep his head up for the examination.  

We immediately administer pain relief as he must feeling pretty awful.  Then a course of two different antibiotics to cover all gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria is begun.  

Scotty needs to be wormed, too,  but we decide to wait until the next day as he has had such an ordeal already.   

Scotty is currently in care and will be for many months.  He needs to remain on constant heat, have daily fluid therapy and injections every 2 days.  We are unsure if he will survive or not.  If his sepsis is severe, the infection will disrupt blood flow to the brain or kidneys, leading to organ failure. 

If he experiences septic shock, his blood pressure will drop significantly which can lead to respiratory, heart or organ failure and eventually death.

All our fingers and toes are crossed for you, Scotty!

By Lynleigh Greig
Southern Cross Wildlife Care

 Southern Cross Wildlife Care 

       Critter of the Month- October 2015: 

 Springtime Slitheries

Spring is a wonderful time of year!  The flowers are blooming, cute baby animals are emerging, people are just happier!  And Spring-time is when all our beautiful scaly creatures start getting active again.  

Not everyone is a fan of snakes, but mostly because they are a very misunderstood species…  They are essential to a healthy ecosystem.  Without them we would be overrun with rodents and other pests.  By keeping down the quantity of rodents, they reduce the occurrence of diseases carried by these and other pests.  

General Behaviour:
•    Contrary to popular belief, snakes are not out to ‘get us’ nor are they hiding and waiting to ambush us. 
•    They want nothing to do with us and tend to be shy and secretive.•    Their first line of defence is to slither away as fast as possible.  If we continue to pester them, they give warnings, such as hissing and ‘neck-flattening’.  If we still torment them, they might ‘strike’ or head-butt with a closed mouth.  In the case of venomous snakes, if they do bite, it is often a ‘dry’ bite i.e. no venom is injected.  Hospital statistics show that around 60% of patients submitted with snake bites turn out to have ‘dry’ bites.•    In pet-and-snake encounters, our domesticated pets are always the instigators.  Snakes won’t attack dogs or cats but will defend themselves if pounced upon. 
Interesting Snake Facts

•    There are roughly 3,000 species of snakes in the world.
•    Snakes are found on every continent except Antarctica  (and New Zealand only has sea-snakes).•    Snakes have no eyelids.•    All snakes are carnivores.•    Snakes have flexible jaws that allow them to eat prey bigger than their head!•    Snakes ‘smell’ with their tongue.•    Snakes don’t have external ears.•    Snakes are mistakenly called ‘cold-blooded’.  They are, in fact, ectothermic, which means that they rely on the outside environment for the temperature of their blood.•    Most snakes have no maternal instincts (with the exception of some pythons).  Finding a baby snake does not mean that ‘the mother and father must be close-by’.•    Not all snakes lay eggs.  Some give birth to live young e.g. red-bellied black snakes, death adders.•    An ‘expectant’ snake is referred to as being gravid, not pregnant.•    Most snakes are solitary animals and only get together during breeding season.•    Extreme fear of snakes is called Ophidiophobia.

The Most Common Species of Snakes on the Northern Beaches:

Diamond Python
 Morelia spilota spilota
Harmless and non-venomous

Diamond pythons are predominantly black in colour with yellow spots arranged in diamond-like shapes.  The average adult size is between 2m and 3m.

Diamond pythons are typically placid in nature and reluctant to bite.  They are mostly arboreal (tree-dwelling) but have been seen on roof-tops, curled up under trees or draped over fence-tops.  They prey on rodents, lizards, birds and mammals such as possums.  They are constrictors. 

Green Tree Snake
Dendrelaphis punctulata
Harmless and non-venomous

The Green Tree Snake is very slender, is greenish-blue on the body and bright yellow on the belly.  They have big black eyes and a very long, thin, prehensile tail.  They reach lengths of around 1.2m.

They are often seen on the ground which surprises people – given that they are tree snakes.  They come to ground to prey on frogs, skinks and fish. Gorgeous little creatures!

Golden-crowned Snake
Cacophis squamulosus
Mildly venomous – not considered dangerous

These little snakes are very secretive and are nocturnal so you’d be lucky to encounter one.  They’re dark brown to grey in colour with a pink belly.  They have a yellowish ‘halo’ or crown – hence their name.  Golden-crowned snakes tend to reach lengths of between 50cm – 75cm. They feed predominantly on lizards and occasionally frogs.
They are wonderful little snakes but they often get into trouble when cats pounce on them and bring them inside.  
Photo by Glenn Addison
Red-bellied Black Snake
Pseudechis porphyriacus
Venomous but very reluctant to bite or engage with humans or animals

The Red-bellied Black Snake is a gorgeous glossy black on top and red on the lower sides and belly.  The average-sized specimen is 1.2m - 1.5m.  They are often found near water and are excellent swimmers!   Their diet consists primarily of frogs.  
They are not an aggressive species and their first form of defence is always to escape.   They are often just moving through your property and should just be left alone.

How to Behave if you Encounter a Snake:

•   Snakes love to lie out on warm surfaces, basking in the sun.  You are most likely to encounter them on concrete walkways, on roads, on bush pathways or on warm rocks.  Snakes will almost always slither away into the nearby bushes if they see or feel you approaching.
•    If, however, they are asleep (which is hard for you to see as they don’t have eyelids to close) and don’t sense your approach – just stomp loudly from a good few metres away and they should awaken and slither away.
•    NEVER poke them with a stick, or attempt to hit them with an implement, don’t step on them or do anything to enter their strike-zone.  This is the only time they will become defensive and possibly strike.

What to do if you are bitten:

Unless you are trying to catch a snake or kill it, you are unlikely to ever be bitten.  However, in the unlikely event that you are, follow these 3 easy steps:

•   Do NOT wash the area of the bite – the hospital will take a swab at the bite site for the Venom Detection Kit (VDK).
•   Use a compression bandage at the bite site and then bandage all the way up the limb and down again.  
•   Sit down – don’t panic – and call an ambulance.

Never apply a torniquet!
There is no need to identify the snake.  The Venom Detection Kit in the hospital will process the venom from the swab and identify which antivenom is required. 
60% of snake-bites are ‘dry’ bites i.e. no venom is injected.

What to do if a Snake enters your Home or Property:
1.  Do not panic
2.  Keep people, children and pets away from the snake
3.  If the snake is outside, keep an eye on it and call for advice
4.  If the snake is in a room, close the door to that room and call Sydney Wildlife
Snakes have every right to be here and should be treated with respect. 
Do NOT attempt to kill ANY snake!!!  It is illegal and dangerous.  Generally, a snake will only become defensive if it is threatened.  Leave them and they will tend to move off of their own accord.  Or call Sydney Wildlife to have the animal relocated.

Sydney Wildlife:  9413 4300

Southern Cross Wildlife Care’s Dr Howard Ralph will treat any injured snake – venomous or non-venomous.

By Lynleigh Greig
Southern Cross Wildlife Care

 Southern Cross Wildlife Care 

       Critter of the Month - November 2015:  Baby Birds

Well, it’s Spring-time and all our baby birds are hatching, growing and learning to fly!  It’s a trying time for parent birds and a scary time for the ‘learner’ flyers.   

Parent birds have resorted to swooping passers-by to protect their babies.  Magpies, currawongs and plovers are particularly partial to the ‘swooping technique’ so if you can avoid their nesting area for a few weeks, all the better for you and them.

If you can’t avoid the area, wear a few protective items as you walk/cycle through the nesting zone.  Pop on some sunglasses, wear a hat, carry an open umbrella (like a shield) or wear a bicycle helmet with cable ties attached as ‘spikes’.   Usually the birds only use the technique as a warning and tend not to make contact but it’s best to have your head and eyes protected, just in case.

When birds are freshly-hatched, they are pink and featherless and very helpless.  They have to be kept warm or they will die.  They are referred to as ‘hatchlings’.  As they grow, they get downy feathers and are referred to as ‘nestlings’.  This means that they are still completely dependent on the parent birds for warmth and food and are nest-bound.  As they grow more, their flight feathers come in and they start perching on the edge of the nest.  As they begin learning to fly, they are referred to as ‘fledglings’.  

Two nestling rainbow lorikeets with their mum.

Learning to fly involves falling to the ground.  In the same way that human babies wobble and fall when learning to walk, baby birds wobble and fall when learning to fly.  When they fall to the ground they are often intercepted by well-meaning people who assume the baby bird is lost and they scoop it up and take it to a veterinarian.  The parent birds will then fret, the baby will fret and the situation can end badly for both.  

If you do happen to find a baby bird on the ground, take a moment to sit back and observe it.  Is it pink and featherless?  If so, these hatchlings need to be warmed up and put back in the nest (if they are not injured).  Does it have downy feathers?  It may be a nestling that has been jostled out by its siblings.  These can be put back in the nest.  Does it have its flight feathers and is it able to perch?  If so, it’s probably a fledgling that is learning to fly.  Keep an eye out for the parent birds.  They are usually close at hand, keeping a watchful eye on the baby.  Wait and watch to see if they come down and feed the baby.  If the parents are around, leave the chick – unless they are in immediate danger (on the road, in the park with dogs running around etc). 

If the bird is injured or if the parent birds don’t come after a few hours, you could consider calling a wildlife rescue organisation for advice or you could gently pick it up, pop it in a cardboard box with holes and take it to your local veterinarian.  

If the bird is not injured and you think it would be better up off the ground, you could consider making an artificial nest for it:

Take an empty ice-cream container, make some holes in the bottom (in case of rain) and fill it with some soft nesting materials.  Attach the nest securely to the tree where the parent birds are perching.  We use cable ties so that the tree isn’t harmed either.  

Artificial nest made from an ice-cream container.

Baby birds brought to Southern Cross Wildlife Care with injuries.

So, if you find a baby bird on the ground, try to figure out if it’s a hatchling, a nestling or a fledgling.  If it’s in a learning phase, wait and observe before interfering.  If the parents come down, leave the baby unless it is in immediate danger.  

Enjoy the season of baby birds!!!

By Lynleigh Greig
Southern Cross Wildlife Care

by Lynleigh Grieg, 2015.