November 21 - 27, 2021: issue 519


Boobook Owl And Baby Possum Rescue; spring Babies helped by a Sydney Wildlife Rescue Volunteer

Helen Pearce is one of our local Sydney Wildlife volunteers - last week she got a call for a raptor rescue.

Helen says; ''As a licensed wildlife rescuer, I get to deal with some pretty cool animals, but today was a beautiful privilege. 

Sydney Wildlife Rescue had a call at about 8:30 this morning for an owl on the ground. Thinking it’d be a Tawny chick (who is not an owl, not even a nightjar, but has very recently been reclassified in its own classification order), but preparing for a Powerful Owl, I set out with all necessary equipment. When I arrived, I found the most gorgeous fledgling Boobook owl. What a cutey! 

The parents were around and watching and rather concerned as to what we were going to do with their precious baby. Fluttering between Jo’s and Lisa Yost Palmer ‘s garden, I caught the petrified little fluffball of claws and sharp beak and we formulated a plan. 

Having consulted with SWR’s experienced raptor coordinator, we made a make-shift nest and Jo and Lisa’s amazing husbands scaled a tree and started fixing the new ‘nest’ as high as we practically could and placed ‘Fluffy’ in. 

This evening, mum and dad have tended to the chick and there’s a second chick still in the original nest! 

I’d like to extend my massive thanks to all involved for the effort made to help these birds. It’s great to know there’s people like these guys who care so deeply about our wildlife. Chicks of all species are fledging at the moment and may need a little extra help from us humans.''

The other recent rescue Helen has attended is a baby possum. More and more of these are coming into care as their tree homes are cut down without any checking to see if they are already inhabited by our wildlife.

Helen says;

''It’s baby season! And I have a huge soft spot for brushtail possums. 

The little guy in this photo is a 300g brushtail Joey. He was found all alone, in the middle of the day on a concrete slab by the side of a building. How he wasn’t already dead, I don’t know. Cats, dogs, birds, snakes, humans……hunger, dehydration, exposure to the sun, wind, cold……either way, he’s a very lucky boy. What happened to his mum is unknown. 

He’s very scared. He doesn’t know what’s happened to him, who this strange thing is who’s trying to feed a funny-tasting milk to him, where his mum is. He cries at night, calling for his mum, but she doesn’t come. 

He will settle in a day or two and get used to the new milk (which is a specialised marsupial milk, purely for his stage of development. Other various types of milks can kill him) and he’ll begin to trust me, but I can’t replace his mum. 

If you find a Joey on its own, it needs help. If you find one, please try to contain it and keep it safe from predators and exposure and call either Sydney Wildlife (Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Services) or WIRES. If you find a dead possum (ringtail or brushtail), please check the pouch for a Joey. Brushies generally have one but ringtails will have 2, sometimes three. If you are unable to, that’s ok, but please call it in to a wildlife organisation so someone can attend to it. 

Finally Spring = Snakes

Like any good Australian, our scaly mates will are now out sunbaking, grabbing some nosh and looking to get some ‘special cuddles’…

Warmer weather brings out some of our reptilian friends and so began the customary panic-attacks from people who don’t understand or like them.  Not to mention the wild guesses of “BROWN SNAKE” for any little critter that happened to have a slight brownish tinge…

Personally, I love snakes!  They are the most perfect animals on the planet - they are quiet and clean, they mind their own business and they perform a free pest extermination service.  They don’t dig up the garden, they don’t wake you up at 5am with loud noises and they don’t eat the rose-bushes or the peonies or anything from the veggie patch.  

Most of us choose to live on the Northern Beaches because it’s a wonderful area that’s filled with nature. Snakes are also a part of nature.  A very big and important part of nature. Without them, we would be overrun with rodents - many of which carry diseases that are harmful to our pets and us.  

We teach our kids to appreciate the cuteness of wallaby joeys, little feathery chicks learning to fly and spiky echidnas munching on ants and termites.  So why do we then teach them to hate snakes?  Whilst it is wise to teach your kids to be cautious and respectful of snakes, please try not to make them paranoid.  Kids with an appreciation, a love and a respect for snakes are much more likely to be safe around them than those who have a fear.  Fear makes people panic.  Panic makes people do silly things. 

Australia is home to at least 200 species of snakes.

Of the 12 commonly-occurring snakes in our area, most are either non-venomous or only mildly venomous (meaning their venom is not medically significant).  The others, despite being classified as ‘dangerously venomous’ are usually in a big hurry to get away from us or tend to stay hidden to avoid confrontation of any kind.  The only snake that is a danger to you, is the one with which you interfere. 

So how do we learn to live peacefully with these scaly critters and avoid interactions with them?

Generally, snakes will only hang around if your property provides one or both of the following:

  1. Food Source
  2. Habitat

  • Keep your property free of debris, wood-piles and discarded building supplies.  Keep the grass nice and short.  By doing this you are reducing their desire to stay long-term.  If there is nowhere to hide, they won't stay.  Don’t leave garbage and food scraps lying around as these attract rats and the snakes are attracted to the rats.  If there is no food for them, they won’t stay.  
  • If you are out bushwalking, wear socks and sturdy shoes and try to take a compression bandage with you.  When bushwalking, most snakes that are sunning themselves on the pathways will slither off when they sense vibrations.   If you encounter one that has not seen you and you surprise it, just wait quietly for it to recover itself and let it move off. They are only interested in finding safety and avoiding confrontation so avoid panicked or quick movements which may frighten them.
  • When gardening outdoors, always make sure you and your kids are wearing nice sturdy boots and gardening gloves. Don’t leave your shoes outside. Snakes (and spiders) love a nice warm, dark hidey-hole which is exactly what shoes provide.
  • If a snake enters your house, don't panic. Remove kids and pets from the room and call one of the numbers below for a snake-catcher. It’s usually best to keep an eye on the snake’s whereabouts so that when the snake catcher arrives, they don’t have to search for hours!  If you are not comfortable doing this, close the door to the room the snake is in and place a rolled-up towel across the bottom of the door to stop the snake from escaping to the rest of the house. 

Snakes generally only end up inside people’s homes because they have been brought indoors by a pet cat or pet dog. These snakes have usually sustained an injury during the interaction and will need to be rescued and given treatment. Please call one of the numbers below if your pet has injured a native reptile.  

If you find a native animal in need, or if you have concerns, please call either 

Sydney Wildlife Rescue - 02 9413 4300 

Or WIRES - 1300 094 737

NB: Please do not attempt to handle a raptor, snake or other wild animals unless you are trained as you may cause injury to them or yourself.

Report and Photos: Helen Pearce, Sydney Wildlife Rescue Volunteer

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