Northern Beaches WIRES – rescue, rehabilitate, release
By ALEC SMART
WIRES (Wildlife Rescue) is Australia’s premier wildlife rescue organisation. Staffed by licensed volunteer rescuers and carers who collect and help in the rehabilitation of injured or abandoned native animals, WIRES is overseen by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
It is illegal to take native animals from the wild and keep them as pets, so those that make it into the custody of WIRES remain in care until they can be released back into their native habitat.
Most rescue mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians aren’t familiar with human contact - to many we’re viewed as a predator - so the sooner appropriate care plans are implemented, the less stress they endure before returning to their homes.
According to WIRES: “Many wild animals that require rescue are already very sick or seriously injured. Volunteers must work with vets and experienced carers to make decisions that are in the animal’s best interests, and for some seriously injured and sick animals this can include developing appropriate care plans, finding specialist care or euthanasia.”
The North Shore region has a huge diversity of native fauna, much of it residing in national parks, including Garigal, Lane Cove, Berowra Valley and Ku-Ring-Gai (the latter, founded in 1894, is Australia’s third-oldest).
The injured wildlife of St Ives district is supervised by WIRES North Shore branch, which operates from Hawkesbury River in the north to Sydney Harbour in the south, west to Rydalmere along the north side of Parramatta River, and east to an approximate line between St Ives Showground, Killara and along the western shore of Middle Harbour to Northbridge, then south to Kirribilli.
Further east, WIRES Northern Beaches operate from Duffy’s Forest south to French’s Forest and along the eastern shore of Middle Harbour, plus Neutral Bay, Mosman and eastwards to encompass Manly and Sydney’s northern beach suburbs.
If you are over 18 you may be eligible to join WIRES as a volunteer wildlife rescuer and carer, although you would need to complete WIRES’ Rescue and Immediate Care Course (RICC).
WIRES Rescue and Immediate Care Course
WIRES confirm that “completing the initial RICC training enables you to rescue a range of sick, injured and orphaned native animals and provide some immediate care.
“The rescue and care of species such as koalas, snakes and bats requires the completion of additional specialist courses. After you have completed the RICC, you can choose to attend our specialist animal courses, which are designed to deliver the skills necessary to provide rehabilitative care for a range of species.”
If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer, read the following information online for details about essential course information and how to become involved.
WIRES Rescue 101
WIRES is currently looking for people of all ages and backgrounds who care about native animals to become Digital Wildlife Ambassadors.
If you’re not available to volunteer to collect injured animals or care for them, as an ambassador you can still make a difference by utilising your creative skills in raising awareness about the plight of injured or sick native fauna.
WIRES explains: “If you have skills, or want to develop skills, in writing, blogging, drawing, interviewing, photography, graphic design, online marketing or filmmaking we would like to give you the opportunity to share your talents helping wildlife and WIRES, as one of our Wildlife Ambassadors. “As a volunteer you can decide what you share, what you’d like to contribute and how often you contribute.
WIRES want Ambassadors that are committed to becoming an important part of our team on an ongoing basis, wanting to share our work or contribute content for us to share, 2-3 times per month for at least 12 months.”
In St Ives, wildlife species that commonly require rescue and rehabilitation include possums, snakes and birds (such as lorikeets, brush turkeys and cockatoos).
Brushtail and ringtail possums are the most common possums found around St Ives, although they’re nocturnal and seldom seen during the day. They’re both protected species and ringtails are significantly smaller with a distinguishing curled tail with a white tip at the end, whilst brushtails have a feathery, thicker tail.
If you find an orphaned ringtail baby, check for another in the vicinity, as ringtails commonly have twins, and sometimes triplets, so there may be a sibling nearby.
Sick and injured possums require a vet’s inspection and treatment. If you are able to safely capture the animal, wrap it in a towel (ensuring you’re wearing long sleeves and gloves to avoid getting scratched) and place it in a dark, well-ventilated box with a lid to transport to the nearest vet, or keep it contained until a WIRES rescuer arrives.
After handling possums, cleanse your hands as soon as possible with a sanitiser or water and soap.
Snakes are very active in summer, and people living in close proximity to the bush are more likely to come into contact with them, although keeping grass closely mowed and gardens clear of materials they might hide within reduces the likelihood of them straying onto your property.
If you see a snake that requires help, avoid it and do not try to contain it. Many are extremely venomous, so it is highly important to keep children and animals well away, as they can move fast and strike if they feel threatened.
If a snake has strayed indoors, isolate it in the room by closing doors and placing towels/clothing on the floor beneath the doors to prevent them exiting.
Call WIRES or fill in an online form and await a specialist snake handler.
All native birds are protected. Some of the likely conditions in which you will find a bird in distress, needing help, include: few or no feathers; eyes closed and laying down; an abandoned fledgling appealing for its parents.
If you see a sick, injured or orphaned raptor of any kind, including eagles, owls and hawks, keep your distance and do not try to contain any bird-of-prey. They have very sharp beaks and claws and require specialist handling.
Contact WIRES as soon as possible for rescue assistance.
Other sick and injured birds (not raptors) require a vet’s inspection and treatment. These might include brush turkeys, currawongs, kookaburras, lorikeets, magpies, noisy miners (not Indian mynahs), parrots (56 species in Australia, including cockatoos, corellas, galahs, lorikeets, king parrots and rosellas) and tawny frogmouths.
Kookaburras and parrots are able to fly directly from the nest, however, some young birds take up to a week before they can fly properly and most of that time is spent on the ground building up their wing muscles, encouraged by the parents. This is when they’re vulnerable to predators, especially domestic cats.
Young chicks and fledging birds that appear abandoned need to be monitored awhile before attempting rescue, because their parents might be in the vicinity awaiting an opportunity to lead them to safety.
If you are able to safely capture an injured or sick bird, wrap it in a towel and place it in a dark, well-ventilated box with a lid to transport to the nearest vet, or keep it contained until a WIRES rescuer arrives.
If you come across injured or distressed wildlife that need emergency care, contact WIRES for the availability of a volunteer rescuer (see phone number below) or carefully take the animal to the nearest WIRES-affiliated vet. Those nearest to St Ives include:
St Ives Vet
7/351 Mona Vale Rd, St Ives
Ph: 9983 9494
Terrey Hills Animal Hospital
97 Booralie Rd, Terrey Hills
Ph: 9450 2020
(Small Animal emergencies until 6pm on weekends on 9966 7263)
WIRES advice is “DO NOT approach snakes, monitor lizards (goannas), bats (flying-foxes or microbats), large macropods (kangaroos or wallabies) or raptors (eagles, falcons or hawks). These animals require specialist handling and MUST be rescued by trained wildlife rescuers.”
If the rescue isn’t urgent and doesn’t involve the aforementioned species, you can fill in an online form at WIRES Report a Rescue:
WIRES Wildlife Rescue Head Office
Suite 1-5, Lifestyle Working 117 Old Pittwater Road Brookvale, Sydney NSW, 2100
Phone: 1300 094 737 Email : firstname.lastname@example.org