Heat Stress – You Can Help!

Heat Stress – You Can Help!

During the hotter months, when we experience high temperatures several days in a row, many of our native animals start to feel it. They will feel exhausted, dehydrated and confused. Heat stress can cause organ damage if not treated and hot surfaces such as tin roofing can cause skin damage to feet.

How can I identify a heat-stressed animal?

Generally, heat-stressed animals will:

  • appear lethargic, unresponsive or confused
  • birds may pant and open their beak; hold their wings out away from their body.
  • possums may come to the ground during the day
  • flying foxes hang lower in trees than usual and often “clump” together in the tree
  • at its worst, animals may suffer convulsions or lose consciousness

How can you help?

Provide animals with hydration by putting out a bowl of water:

  • place a shallow dish of water with some sticks, bark and/or rocks leaning out of the water – this will give animals a way out if they fall in
  • place the dish in a safe place away from cats, dogs and roadways
  • place it in the shade – use an umbrella or near a tree – check it regularly to ensure it is still shaded
  • regularly check the water level and top it up if necessary.

If you find an animal approaching your bowl, keep calm and observe from a distance.

What do I do if I find a heat-stressed animal?

If you find an animal (except flying foxes and bats) that is suffering from heat stress it may need urgent attention by a vet. If you feel comfortable:

  • wrap the animal in a towel or blanket, secure it in an appropriate carrier (ventilated container, cat cage etc)
  • note the exact location where you found the animal so it can be returned
  • take the animal to your nearest vet
  • the vet will assess and determine if care is required or simply an overnight visit to get well again.

A heat-stressed bat or flying fox will need the attention of a vaccinated rescuer. Call a rescue organisation for assistance.

If you need assistance with a heat-stressed animal, please call a rescue organisation for guidance.

Bird on the ground? Don’t “Bird-Nap”!

Bird on the ground? Don’t “Bird-Nap”!

“Birdnapping” is a common occurrence particularly around spring. Many well-meaning people see a young bird on the ground, assume it is lost or injured and take it. The bird the ends up in care as it may not be reunited with its parents.

Fledgling magpies that were “birdnapped”.
Photo credit: JABS Joey and Bat Sanctuary

I have found a bird on the ground, what do I do?

Fledglings (young birds that have grown all or most of their feathers) leave the nest for a few main reasons. The first being over-crowding; if there is more than one baby, the nest can get very tight for space. The second main reason is that the baby is practicing to fly and strengthening its wing muscles. Once the fledglings are on the ground, they may be unable to get back into the nest, as they are not strong enough. Their parents will usually continue to feed them while they are on the ground.
If you find a young bird on the road, or somewhere very exposed and it is uninjured, place it somewhere nearby where there is cover and it is a little safer. Don’t worry, the parent birds will hear it calling so they will find it.

Will the parent birds care for the bird?

Fledglings are fed by their parents – so they are never far away, probably collecting food. If they see you close by they will not return until you have gone. Go away for a while or move away and observe from a distance. When you return you will almost certainly find that the parents have taken care of their youngster.

Can I handle the bird?

There is an ‘old wives tale’ that if you handle a baby bird, the parents will pick up the human scent and abandon the chick. This is not correct. If you have picked up a chick, put it back or nearby where you found it and the parents will provide the care it needs.
If you notice the chick has not been fed or protected by its parents, or has been on the ground for more than a day without parents attending, please contact a rescue organisation for further guidance or contact your local vet.

Should I try and put the bird back in the nest?

If you find an unfeathered bird that has fallen out of the nest, you could try to find the nest and put it back carefully. If you are unable to find the nest, or it is too high up, please contact a rescue organisation for advice. Remember: not all birds nest in trees, their nest may actually be on the ground.

I believe the bird is injured or sick, what do I do?

If you think the young bird is genuinely orphaned or it is clearly sick, put it in a box, keep it warm and contact a rescue organisation for advice or hand it in to the nearest vet.

My cat/dog caught a bird, what should I do?

The saliva in the mouths of dogs and cats can be toxic to other animals. It takes only a short while for toxicity to set in and it is critical that a vet sees the injured bird as soon as possible. If vets are not available then arrange to get the bird to an animal emergency hospital. Keep dogs and cats confined during dusk, dawn and dark hours.



Common Ringtail Possum juvenile in care.

In Melbourne, you are likely to come across one of two species of possums:

  • Common Brushtail Possum – up to the size of a small cat, pointed ears, fluffy tail with end section black 
  • Common Ringtail Possum – half the size of a small cat,  rounded ears, and white tip on the tail

Our Wildlife Rescuers get called out to assist with possums due to:

  • hit by car
  • attacked by dog or cat
  • fire or heat stress
  • loss of habitat, or
  • cruelty

How can you help?

Possums are active during the night; a possum on the ground during the day will be in need of help. If safe, place a washing basked or box over the possum to protect it from predators and call us, our phone operator will guide you on the next steps. If you see a possum hit by a car, if safe move the possum off the road and check for a joey in the pouch.

Possums In The Roof

Possums live in roofs because it’s a warm, dark place – they feel comfortable. An easy way to move them from your roof is simply providing an alternative – a possum box. Possum Boxes (and other nesting boxes) can be sourced from LaTrobe University’s Wildlife Sanctuary Retail Store. Possums can be removed by professional services for a fee.