Feeding distressed wildlife

Like much of Southern and Eastern Australia, the Southern Highlands saw two mega-fires ravage our communities and pristine bushland. Tragically, people lost their lives and their homes while our wildlife including koalas, kangaroos, wombats and wallabies either perished or saw their habitats completely destroyed by a succession of infernos.

Though the rains have finally arrived, it will be a long time before the ravaged bushlands will fully-regenerate. 

With many of the surviving wildlife left without food or water, the Southern Highlands community and beyond [including Germany] responded in many extraordinary ways.

Our volunteer website developer and journalist, Jennifer Campbell went into action by collecting fresh produce each night along with other essential field items. Working with the management from Woolworths and Harris Farm in Bowral, Jennifer and her friend, Olga Hromow, established food stations on numerous backroads and within Werai, where the fires burnt the land to a crisp. 

Every evening for a month, Jennifer sorted out the fruit and vegetables and placed them into containers before distributing the food. She also mentioned how many of the Woolworths’ staff were out there in full-force after work or on their days off, each making a vital contribution to the wildlife’s survival.

Woolworth’s store manager, Grant O’Brien went further by supplying Jennifer with feed containers, bottles of water and water bowls, pillow cases, gloves, blankets, a medical kit and a feather duster to use in the event of finding injured birds. Other generous community supporters sent us bat wraps, knitted pouches for joeys and a host of vital supplies and donations.

Everything was utilised with swiftness and precision. On one occasion, we took a large box of fruit supplied by Grant down to the Shoalhaven Bat Clinic in Bomaderry for the hundreds of bats that were in rehabilitation while actor, John Waters and Moss Vale storeowner, Suzie Anderson — to name a few, raised money for the RFS who also helped save many of our marsupials.

Thank you to everyone for your kindness and dedication; especially Grant, Michael and the girls. 

If you’re feeding wildlife, it’s very important to read up on what they can eat and how they need to be fed. While we normally don’t recommend this practice, the bushfire crisis has changed the rules of engagement. For this reason, we have outlined some tips along with a link that will provide you with other necessary information.

Please visit this link every few weeks for updates:

https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/animals-and-plants/native-animals/helping-wildlife-in-emergencies

Of the rules that never change include:

  • Always consult with a wildlife carer to know what is relevant to your area
  • All food stations should be monitored and potentially rotated
  • Do not place food near roads
  • Relevant food should be placed in specific locations depending on species [what to feed mobs of roos, wombats, wallabies, possums, etc]
  • Do not leave food out if there is existing vegetation growing in the area
  • Seeds should never be left on the ground
  • Always make sure that the water is fresh and water bowls are cleaned, and are positioned close to food drops
  • Never give water straight from a bottle, especially to koalas. Either place water into a cupped hand or a water bowl.
  • Food should not be left out to rot
  • Do not encourage the wildlife to feed at your home
  • Always ensure your own safety while the fires remain active; especially if some fires are still active in hollows and beneath the undergrowth. Remember that large trees are also at risk of falling [which is why you must consult with a carer or local ecologist first].

Again, always refer to the link.

Foods that are safe to share with wildlife include:

  • Apples
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Berries
  • Baby spinach rocket
  • Watermelon
  • Pears
  • Corn
  • Cos lettuce
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Carrots
  • Pumpkin

The foods to avoid are any brassica vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage, turnips, collars, kale and bok choy.

It’s vital that for all to spread the word on what we have provided to ensure that those who are volunteering  with the very best intentions are not doing more harm than good. Their longterm care is just as important.

Our sincere thanks to our amazing Southern Highlands’ community for your care and support.

Woody and Kerstin.

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