Carers stories 2019
On this page
we will keep you informed about animals that you have brought in to
care with WIRES Northern Rivers branch. If you would like to know about
a particular animal, please email us, and we will do what we can to
keep you up to date.
This Green Tree frog was found sitting fully exposed on the lawn in broad daylight at Broadwater. A Butcher bird was watching intently nearby.
Green Tree Frogs are nocturnal and are more often heard than seen, they much prefer cool dark places. They have a habit of taking up residence in and around suburban houses, in drain pipes, water tanks, letterboxes and even toilet bowls.
The exposed frog was quickly rescued by Nina. It was brought into care with WIRES as Nina noticed straight away that it had a leg injury, it had lost two toes and was obviously not well.
WIRES volunteer Marion consulted the vet and it was decided that Marion would keep “Froggy” in care under observation for 3 - 5 days. Marion would be watching for a crush injury, or possible die-back in the area of the missing toes. Luckily there was none, “Froggy” just needed a good rest in order to heal.
Within days he was hopping around in his intensive care enclosure chasing crickets supplied by Marion. By the time he was released 6 days later back home at Broadwater, he had gained 27 gram.
Marion said: He’s one of the most endearing animals I’ve had in care.
"Froggy" looking very please as he is about to go home.
Green Tree Frogs are sometimes called the “The smiling croaker.” They can live for 16 to 20 years in captivity. In the wild, their lives are shorter due to predators.
Green tree frogs are amphibians, which mean they have a double life. At the tadpole stage they live in water and breathe through gills. As adults they breathe with lungs and live on land. A healthy environment is one where lots of frogs can be heard regularly, if frogs are suddenly missing from an area it tells us that their/our environment is changing. This could mean a change in the quality of the air we breathe or the water we drink.
The Green Tree Frog population, like many frogs, has suffered a decline over recent years. The main danger to the Green Tree Frog is the destruction of habitat as well as chemical use.
Images by Marion Nel
Echidna Season is Here
WIRES is currently receiving a large number of calls for Echidnas hit and injured by cars.
As the weather gets cooler, Echidnas become more active and travel further afield, looking for a mate. If you are very lucky you might see as many as 10 Echidnas walking in a line. This is called an Echidna train. The female is in the lead with males behind, in order of size. She may lead them around for 6 weeks before choosing a mate.
Unfortunately, this increased activity makes Echidnas more vulnerable on our roads. Please be alert if you are on the road between dusk and dawn to avoid injuring a wandering Echidna. Echidnas don't move very quickly, so please slow down to allow them to safely cross - and keep an eye out for injured animals that may be on the side of the road.
Echidnas aren’t easy animals to handle! The Echidna's sharp spines cover its back and each individual spine has a muscle attached to its base, giving the animal control over the movement and direction of its spines and enabling it to anchor itself firmly onto many surfaces by using the erect spines.
If you find an Echidna on the road, it may have been hit and injuries are not always apparent. If you can, cover the animal with a towel and move it off the road, you may just save its life. Please stay with the animal and call WIRES straight away. Do not put the Echidna in your car uncontained as it may bed itself in and be very difficult to remove. When you ring the local WIRES Hotline (66 28 1898), a WIRES volunteer will talk you through the situation and explain how you can contain the animal until a rescuer arrives. If you are able to safely transport the Echidna to a WIRES volunteer, it is very important to note where you found it as WIRES always aim to return each animal to their home territory where they are likely to have a burrow.
The WIRES hotline also receives many calls about Echidnas that are spotted in house yards. Sometimes the animal has “dug in” or rolled into a ball. This is the Echidna’s way of defending itself when it feels insecure and in danger. The best solution is to leave the Echidna alone, remove the threat (usually the family dog) and the Echidna will go on its way once it feels confident to do so. Echidnas have a great memory, and it is unlikely that it will return after a frightening experience.
The Ringtail possum is probably the best known possum to most of us as it is commonly seen in back yards climbing trees at night in search of food such as eucalypt leaves, fresh new buds of native trees, flowers and fruit. It lives in rainforests, eucalypt forests, shrubby woodland, and have adapted to suburban gardens.
This evening two little female Ringtail siblings ventured out of their enclosure after having been in care since early January when one was found wondering alone at Skinners Shoot near Byron Bay. Ringtails rarely have just one joey, luckily the second joey was found shortly after and the siblings were united. They were much too young to be away from their mum and was taken into care by WIRES. Sadly mum was never found.
After 4 months in care they are now ready to go back to the wild, they are seen here venturing out of their enclosure into the big trees close by.
The road back to the wild is getting shorter, they can now choose to return to their enclosure, or come back at daybreak to their new home supplied by their WIRES volunteer.
As exciting as today was for these two Ringtails, it was a day of loss for another little Ringtail joey. Sometime last night or early this morning she lost her mum at Alstonville. No sibling was found, it appears she has lost mum while they were out and about last night, little Mini as she had now been named may have been a bit too adventurous.
Often we can reunite joeys with their mum; sadly in both of these cases this was not possible.
Mini’s journey back to the wild has just started, it will end in about 4 months’ time when she takes that first leap of faith out of her enclosure with other Ringtail joeys that are already in WIRES care and others we sadly know will arrive in the near future.
Ringtail joeys stay in the pouch until about 4 months old and then mum carries them on her back whilst she forages for food at night. Survival rate is diminished once they leave the pouch, predators are many and include dogs, cats, python snakes, foxes, the powerful owl and many are also killed on our roads by cars.
Images by Barbara Wilkins & Jeanette Dundas
Wildlife warriors in PJs – and YOU could be one!
It CAN be easy being green! Kick back with a cuppa while you help local wildlife. Join WIRES!
When you think about wildlife warriors you may be thinking of wrestling a possum from the jaws of a dog... or perhaps scooping a helpless little wallaby joey from its dead mum’s pouch.... or shepherding a family of ducklings across busy roads to a nearby creek... or climbing a tree to reunite a tiny squawking chick with its siblings.
But not all our wildlife warriors are the Indiana Jones type. Sure, there are the snake handlers, specially trained to wrangle serpents (venomous and non-venomous alike)... and even those brave enough to tackle an injured goanna with its six scary defensive weapons. Most wildlife heroes, however, are just really wonderful humans who care about our wildlife and want to make a difference and save little lives.
The hidden heroes of the wildlife world are the intrepid souls who woman and man the 24 hour, 7 day a week, 365 day a year hotline. They are the wildlife warriors in PJs – saving wildlife from the comfort of their own loungeroom. It is a great feeling to be able to put your feet up and kick back with a cup of tea, answer the phones and know that you have helped rescue a whole range of creatures in a single 2 or 4 hour shift.
WIRES Northern Rivers run a 24 hour hotline that takes calls from the public night and day, providing advice on human/wildlife encounters and, where needed, organising rescues. With a dynamic team of about 30 volunteers, this group run a local ambulance service for our native animals.
All WIRES Hotliners are trained wildlife rescuers and so they know how to deal with rescue calls. They also receive extra training so that they are well prepared to take calls from the public.
While you may not have to speed to the scene of an animal rescue, there is still an adrenalin rush and a huge sense of satisfaction when, for instance, you can coach someone through picking up an echidna and moving it out of danger till a rescuer arrives – or calm someone down who has seen a snake – or talk someone through the process of reuniting a chick with its family.
WIRES is always in need of more volunteers. If you are keen to make a difference for the wildlife in our area, consider joining WIRES. Now is a great time to join since their next workshop will be held in Lismore on June 2nd and there is time beforehand to complete the online part of the course.
Mountain brushtail twins being cared for by WIRES volunteer
For more information about how you can join and contribute call 66281898.
Stormy Weather for Wedge-tailed Shearwaters
During the Easter weekend conditions off the North Coast of NSW were not ideal for the fledgling Wedge-tailed Shearwaters that had begun their migration north from their burrows on Muttonbird Is. Coffs Harbour. The conditions were windy, wet and wild.
Each year during April the Shearwaters aka Muttonbirds begin their migration to the Northern hemisphere.
Once the weather settled, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were found inland at unlikely locations; Tatham, New Italy and Nashua. When Shearwater comes to ground they are unable to get lift off to fly. They were in trouble.WIRES received calls to rescue these exhausted birds.
After 5 – 7 days in care, and a diet of fish 2 of these birds had regained their strength and were ready for release.
Two nights ago the conditions were perfect at Lennox Headland as Shearwaters need a windy elevated location to take off.
The birds were silent on route, but as we neared the coast they became quite vocal. It was as though they could smell the sea and their instincts to migrate north had kicked in again.
At the release location the Wedge-tailed Shearwaters emerged from their enclosure and immediately began to preen and flex their wings.
It is now up to them to continue on their journey north.
Yet another Wedge-tailed Shearwater has recovered and is being released tonight.
Thank you to the members of public who called WIRES to rescue these birds, giving them a second chance. It has been a pleasure experiencing these amazing birds.
By Julie Marsh
Lorikeets are seen across our region every day; their arrival is usually loud and spectacular.
Sadly over the past few years, multiple lorikeets (predominately Rainbow but also some Scaly-breasted) presented with what is now called Lorikeet syndrome.
These lorikeets present with varying symptoms: mild cases can appear similar to concussion with unco-ordination and inability to fly. Severe cases will display staggering, paralysis, change to voice (croaky sounding) fully dilated pupils and inability to blink. All appear to be adults with good feather condition, but most are underweight.
When these birds are brought into care, WIRES volunteers closely monitor their symptoms whilst they are kept in Intensive hospital care enclosures. After fluid therapy some can self-feed, others need help feeding. Lorikeets unable to blink must have eye ointment applied 2 to 4 times a day until they start blinking again.
Their stages of recovery are closely monitored and they are moved on to the next treatment stage when ready. Sadly some lorikeets are so severely affected that they die within 24 hours. The time taken for each treatment stage relies on the individual birds recovery rate. They may need to be in intensive care for up to one week, next stage hospital cage for another week before being transferred to a flight aviary where they may spend up to four weeks before being fully recovered.
These three Scaly-breasted lorikeets had spent 6 weeks in care before finally being released back to the wild. Many have been released over the past few years, more are coming in daily. Should you find a lorikeet in trouble, please call WIRES straight away on 66281898.
If you are keen to make a difference for the wildlife in our area, consider joining WIRES. Now is a great time to join since our next workshop will be held in Lismore on June 2nd and there is time beforehand to complete the online part of the course. For more information about how you can join and contribute call 66281898.
Image by Marion Nel
Bandy-Bandy snakes don’t often get harmed & live to tell the tail.... This one was lucky.
WIRES was contacted when this little Bandy Bandy snake was found on a driveway obviously not well. After examination it was thought that a cat had most likely been involved due to small puncture wounds found on the snakes body.
The Bandy Bandy (Vermicella annulata) is a nocturnal hunter, feeding almost exclusively on Blind Snakes. During the day, the Bandy Bandy can be found under logs, or burrowed deep into the earth throughout Eastern and far northern Australia. On humid or rainy nights you may be lucky and see one crossing the road. When threatened it uses its body to create spectacular vertical loops off the ground.
An egg laying species, females lay between 2 - 15 eggs. Not a lot is known about the toxicity of Bandy Bandy but it is believed to be only mildly venomous to humans. As always apply first aid and seek urgent medical attention for all suspected snake bites. They grow to less than one meter, making them one of our smaller snake species.
This little fellow was released back to the wild on Anzac day after veterinary treatment and recovery with WIRES for two weeks.
Although a snake may not seem particularly injured after a cat attack, most often there are puncture wounds that if not treated can be fatal some time later. If you suspect your cat may have injured a native animal including snakes, please call WIRES on 66281898 for advice.
Images by Marion Nel
Tiger’s Easter Egg Adventure
As Easter approaches many of us will be thinking of chocolates and, more specifically, Easter eggs. However just as eggs form part of our dietary intake, this is true also for many of our native animals, including the Lace monitor – also often referred to as Goannas.
WIRES recently had a call out to a Lace monitor that had been caught red handed raiding a chicken coop. Typically WIRES would advise to open the coop and allow the Goanna to make a hasty retreat - however this case was a bit different.
Lachlan, the chicken keeper, had placed six golf balls in his laying boxes to encourage the chooks to lay there. The golf balls were nowhere to be seen so Lachlan had closed the door and called WIRES.
Rescuers Martin and Brett attended and collected “Tiger” the Goanna and promptly took him to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital for X-rays and assessment. The six golf balls and three chook eggs were clearly visible. Guilty as charged!
The question now was whether to operate or see if the balls would pass through the lizard of their own accord. Also, whether the coating on the balls could withstand the strong digestive acids in the stomach.
While this was being pondered overnight, Tiger had a plan of his own. He managed to regurgitate all six balls and the eggs overnight, which was fortunate for all concerned as surgery would have required fostering and care for Tiger over the winter months. It is thought that the regurgitation may well be a stress response and that left to his own devices the outcome may not have been as favourable. Tiger was able to be released back to his home the following day.
Lace monitors are the second largest of the Australian goannas and are relatively common in the Northern Rivers. They feed mostly on reptiles, birds, eggs, insects and are opportunistic scavengers. Equally adept on the ground or high in the trees they are active in the warmer months and tend to lay low and take cover for winter.
WIRES receives many calls for reptiles that have eaten plastic eggs and of course many more would go unreported or mysteriously disappear. A python that has eaten a placebo egg will most likely suffer a painful end to life with a blocked digestive system.
If you have chickens and need to prompt your hens to lay in set locations, WIRES recommends you avoid using plastic replicas and simply leave one of the real eggs in the laying spot to encourage the chooks to lay there. Marking the dud eggs with a texter is recommended, or rotate the egg daily, marking it with a food dye so no eggs go to waste.
By Martin Fitzgerald
Pam had observed a possum for two days prior to discovering it behind her fridge on the deck. It was wedged into a small cavity behind a metal plate hiding with wiring all around it.
WIRES was contacted and after removing the metal plate and coaxing the possum out with kitchen spatulas a very dehydrated and hungry possum joey still very much dependent on mum for survival, was put into a snuggly pouch to hide in and taken into care.
She was examined and found to have no injuries. Considering she had been seen for two days with no mum in sight, she had obviously somehow lost mum and tried to find shelter.
Once hydrated she was given possum formula which she readily drank as well as some native foliage which is her favourite and native food.
Kell as she has been named (she was found in a Kelvinator fridge) will be ready for release in about 4 months’ time. She will join other Common Brushtails of the same stage of development in care, and once old enough to fend for themselves, they will be released back to the wild as a little family group.
Images by Lib Ruytenberg & Jeanette Dundas
WIRES celebrates World Frog Day
Listen, can you hear it? There’s a joyous chorus of song ringing out all throughout the region. The frogs of Northern Rivers are singing, and it’s not just the recent rain that they’re celebrating. The 20th of March is World Frog Day, a day to celebrate all things froggy and to raise awareness about these amazing creatures, the challenges they face and their ecological importance.
Australia is home to 230 species of frogs, they occupy a huge range of habitats and environmental niches. The diversity among them is quite incredible, but one thing they all share is their sensitivity to the quality of their environment. This attribute is what makes frogs such vital environmental indicators, the “canaries in the coal mine” so to speak. If the places they inhabit become degraded and polluted, or are altered by a rapidly changing climate, frogs are among the first to be impacted.
Indeed, in recent decades frog species have faced alarming extinction rates. Habitat destruction, the spread of the deadly chytrid fungus, and a fast changing climate are all major factors that have contributed to the devastating mass extinctions. Many remaining species are vulnerable and endangered, occurring only in tiny patches of remnant habitat and are dangerously close to being lost forever like so many others who have disappeared before them.
Now more than ever frogs and the environment they depend on need protecting, so, what can we do to help?
- Be mindful of what you use around the home and garden: many of the chemicals we use make their way into our waterways and can be deadly to frogs and tadpoles. Forgoing the use of nasty chemicals or using environmentally friendly alternatives helps frogs and the environment.
- Create and restore habitat: planting locally native plants in your own backyard is a great way to help your local frogs and other wildlife will thank you for it too. Get involved with a local frog club or landcare project to help restore critical habitat in your local area.
- Frogs are brown and bumpy too: did you know? There are 44 species of native frogs found throughout the Northern Rivers region, only 8 of these species are green and the remaining 36 are brown, mixed coloured and/or bumpy. Among these 36 native species are many of our most vulnerable frogs, so it’s important to know your native frogs and be sure not to mistake them for cane toads. Check out the key features that identify cane toads and how to humanely euthanise and dispose of them on the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage website
- Make like a frog and get vocal! Stand up for frogs and the environment they depend on. Write to your local member of parliament to let them know that you want to see changes in policy and law that ensures better protection for our environment. Join a group that campaigns to protect your local wetlands and waterways. Most importantly, share your love of frogs and nature with your friends, family and anyone who will listen!
Happy world frog day!
Fleay's Barred Frog native to Northern Rivers
Tusked Frog, endangered species and native to Northern Rivers
If you are keen to make a difference for the wildlife in our area, consider joining WIRES. For more information about how you can join and contribute call 66281898.
By Hannah Coffey
Images by Marion Nel, Kathy Grieveson & Sue Ulyatt
Goannas find their food by searching widely across the landscape, and that is probably what this 6.5 kg Lace Monitor was doing on the 20th January at McLeans Ridges when he tried to cross the road and was hit by a car.
Being carrion eaters he may also have been looking for an easy meal such as a dead animal in the middle of the road. If safe to do so please stop and remove any dead animals off the road, as other animals are easily injured as they feed on carrion.
A passing motorist saw him lying in the road and called WIRES. Volunteers Marion and Merryn attended the rescue; sadly the Goanna was in a bad way. He was driven straight to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital by reptile handler Marion where he was treated primarily for jaw fracture and brain trauma.
He was named Dr McLean at CWH after he left his mark on a staff member whilst being treated for injuries.... It was a close call for this magnificent animal and he stayed in hospital till 11th February.
He was collected with an ongoing medication plan by Marion. A very strong and fierce animal, administering his meds and handling is a two person job and Marion is assisted by WIRES Northern Rivers volunteer reptile team.
Soft foods were gradually introduced and his appetite has now returned. He is undergoing more tests back at CWH in the next few days to monitor his progress.
Goannas primarily prey on birds, snakes and seek the eggs of both. They will also opt for an easy meal and feed on carrion. Using their long forked tongues which they flick in and out, they pick up scent in the air and on the ground. Goannas then "read" these scents with a special organ in the roof of the mouth, much like a snake does.
Found in all regions of Australia, the Goanna is an excellent climber, and a strong swimmer. Goannas are largely terrestrial and digs its own burrow system but will readily take refuge in a tree if a burrow is not nearby.
Dr McLean will likely remain in care over winter and will hopefully return to his home teritory at McLeans Ridges come spring.
Here he is in his enclosure, showing major improvement
By Marion Nel
WIRES Celebrates World Wildlife Day
Sunday 3rd March is World Wildlife Day – a day when the United Nationals encourages us to celebrate the extraordinary diversity of fauna and flora and to remind us of the urgent need to fight against wildlife crime and human induced reduction of species.
WIRES know all too well the impact that our activities as humans are having on wildlife. WIRES volunteers give their time 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to help sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.
With around 200 active local volunteers, WIRES members perform daily miracles, rescuing animals that are entangled in fences and rubbish, those that have fallen in pools, those that are hit by cars, and those that collide with windows. Daily they see the injuries sustained by dogs and cats. Working closely with local vets they nurse animals back to health after disease and illness. They feed young orphaned joeys – possums, wallabies, pademelons, gliders, bandicoots and many other creatures around the clock. And they reunite many, many chicks that have become separated from their parents or fallen from their nests.
On World Wildlife Day, take the opportunity to come and meet and chat to WIRES members about what they do and how you can help!
WIRES will have a display and information table in the Lismore Quadrangle on Sunday 3rd January from 11-1pm as part of wider celebrations (hosted by Nature NSW). This is a family friendly day with stall speakers and live music.
DID YOU KNOW
- WIRES is a State-wide organisation with Branches throughout NSW
- The Northern Rivers Branch of WIRES operates from Crabbes Creek in the North East, to New Italy in the South East and Drake in the West. It covers the local government areas of Byron, Ballina, Lismore, Kyogle and Richmond Valley shires.
- In 2017-18 WIRES Northern Rivers received more than 7,600 calls - up 2% on the previous year.
- Around 50% of calls related to birds that are either sick, injured or separated from their parents
- One third of calls are from the Lismore Local Government area
- Most animals come into care from urban areas.
- A call to the LOCAL WIRES Hotline 66281898 is answered 24/7 by a local WIRES volunteer
- WIRES relies heavily on the generosity of caring people for support. All donations $2 and over are tax deductible.
A very special joey comes into care with WIRES
Being a wildlife carer can be full of surprises. New arrivals can happen at any time of the day or night. Every now and then an extraordinary creature comes into care, emphasising just how important looking after orphaned animals is.
Last week WIRES received a call from the Tabulam area from a MOP who had been handed a very tiny joey. The mother had been caught in a possum trap, and when she was released she quickly disappeared, leaving her joey behind. Not sure what the animal was, she phoned WIRES, thinking it was a Potoroo. Initial photos were blurry and identification was difficult… but once the little joey arrived in care it was clear what it was – a little female Rufous Bettong.
Listed as a vulnerable species in NSW, it is thought that their numbers are decreasing rapidly due to fox and feral cat predation and habitat loss. WIRES Northern Rivers has had only six bettongs in care since 2014, with none for the last 3 years. This little joey is furred but weighs only 240g.
Looking a little like a cross between a mouse or rat, a bandicoot, a possum and a wallaby, the Rufous Bettong is part of the Rat kangaroo family or Potoroids, which also include Potoroos and
Musky rat kangaroos. Adult weight is just 1- 3.5kg.
The Rufous Bettong sleeps during the day in conical grass nests built on a shallow depression at the
base of a grass tussock or a fallen log in relatively open forest with dense grassy cover.
Their long nails allow them to dig for their preferred diet of roots and tubers. They feed on grasses
such as Blady Grass (Imperata cylindrica) and various species of native herbs, tubers, roots, fungi and
An important part of their diet is truffles, which are the spore-bearing bodies of underground fungi.
Those fungi (called ectomycorhizal fungi) associate with the rootlets of trees such as eucalypts,
helping the tree to take up minerals from the soil. By digging up and eating the truffles, bettongs
disperse those spores in their dung, helping the fungi to spread to new hosts. In that way bettongs
play an important role in ecosystems.
Apart from mothers with young, they nest solitary in the wild. They have a prehensile tail which they
use to carry grasses gathered for their multiple nest sites built by individual animals enabling them
to flee to a new site should a predator approach.
Due to European settlement, clearing of agricultural land and introduction of foxes, rabbits,
hares, cats and dogs the Potoroids have not done well. They have much reduced ranges and two of
the 10 species are now extinct.
Just 250 gram and already spending time out of pouch, rushing back as soon as there is a disturbance.
By Renata Phelps
On the 2nd Feb WIRES received a call that a very large strange looking chick had been rescued. The chick sitting in the middle of a rural road at Casino had just avoided being run over by a large truck when a motorist stopped to rescue it.
The bird was identified as a Channel-Billed Cuckoo, the largest brood parasite bird in the world. As a fully grown adult the cuckoo has a wingspan of approx. 1 metre in flight.
The WIRES volunteer went to the site of rescue in search of the chicks surrogate parents or nest; sadly there was no sign of either, so the chick was not able to be reunited with its host parent’s.
The Channel-billed Cuckoo lays its eggs in the nests of the Australian Magpie, the Pied Currawong, and members of the crow family. As an adult the Channel-billed Cuckoo is mainly a fruit eater but as a chick the Currawong and Crow diet is perfect for this large bird.
The Channel-Billed Cuckoos arrive in northern and eastern Australia in spring from New Guinea and Indonesia flying as far south as Sydney. In autumn they leave Australia flying the thousands of kilometres back as far north as Celebes and eastward to Bismarck Archipelago.
The chick has done well in WIRES care and doubled its weight in the first 8 days, shortly after it was perching and less than 4 weeks in care it is self-feeding and in a large flight aviary building up flight strength before release and finally flying thousands of kilometres back north.
By Julie Marsh
Shooting to save a life! WIRES, RSPCA and Vet collaborate to help tangled magpie.
Even small pieces of rubbish can cause untold suffering for our native wildlife. This poor juvenile magpie had its leg entangled in twine and wire which then became snared in a branch high in a tree in Casino.
In its panic to escape, the magpie ended up helplessly hanging upside down, flapping desperately. It was in this predicament, all the while suspended by one leg, for at least 18 hours.
The parent magpie was worriedly keeping a close eye on her entangled chick. WIRES bird specialist, Melanie, had grave fears that the magpie would have suffered severe injuries to its leg.
The magpie was approximately two stories high in the tree, way too high to reach. After many phone calls to various organisations, unfortunately no local cherry pickers were available to assist. But all was not lost. Casino police made contact with Alistair from the RSPCA, who fortunately was able to come to assist.
As a licensed shooter, Alistair carefully assessed the situation and decided it might be possible to bring down both the branch and the bird with a shot. It took incredible skill and three shots to get through the branch, before both the limb and magpie tumbled to the ground. There was a moment of panic when the magpie became free while still attached to the rubbish and flew off, but it was caught again by WIRES volunteer, Melanie.
Elizabeth at Central Vet Care Clinic, Casino, conducted an examination and fortunately there were no fractures to the magpie’s leg. It appeared to have a normal range of movements, despite being extremely sore. After some subcutaneous fluids to rehydrate, the magpie is now slowly recovering in WIRES care.
Where there is a will there is a way, and rescues such as this illustrate how important collaboration is in solving complicated rescue situations. They also illustrate just how important it is to dispose of rubbish thoughtfully.
If you are keen to make a difference for the wildlife in our area, consider joining WIRES. Now is a great time to join since our next workshop will be held in Lismore on February 23rd and there is time beforehand to complete the online part of the course. For more information about how you can join and contribute call 66281898.
By Melanie Barsony
Last Saturday WIRES NR Hotline 66281898 received a phone call from Lismore Vet Clinic that a bird had been brought into the clinic and was ready to be taken into care, it was suffering from concussion. The WIRES volunteer that took the bird into care was very excited to find it was a Black-faced Monarch, a bird that rarely comes into care.
Black-faced Monarch’s fly across Torres Strait from their wintering grounds in southern New Guinea to their breeding areas in eastern Australia where they can be found in rainforests, eucalypt woodlands, coastal scrub and damp gullies. Only the female builds the nest which is deep and cup shaped made up of casuarina needles, bark, roots, moss and spider web. The nest is usually located in the fork of a tree, 3 m to 6 m above the ground where both sexes incubate the eggs, feed and raise their young.
After 24 hours in care the monarch was very spritely so was given a flight test. Sadly the little bird could not sustain flight, it needed more time.
After two days and still no improvement in flight the bird was returned to Lismore Vet Clinic where x-rays were taken and sent to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital for assessment. The x-rays revealed a slight displacement of one shoulder. The monarch needed more rest.
Each day the monarch became more active and it certainly had an appetite, devouring lots of specialised food daily.
After 5 days in care it was finally able to sustain normal flight and the following day it was released where it had been found at Caniaba.
Thank you to the unknown person for rescuing this bird and taking it to Lismore vet clinic thus giving this beautiful bird a second chance.
If you come across an injured bird/ critter on the road contain it in a box with a soft cloth and phone Wires Northern Rivers hotline 02 66281898.
It's handy to carry a box with a soft cloth and a towel in the car just in case you come across an injured animal.
By Julie Marsh
Cattle Egret Disaster Update:
You may have seen our earlier post from 9 January regarding the severe storms that ripped across north eastern NSW just before Christmas causing havoc within a Cattle Egret breeding colony at Lawrence near Grafton. WIRES volunteers from Clarence Valley,Mid North Coast and Northern Rivers joined local resident Elizabeth in the huge task of saving the 300 chicks in trouble.
Due to the ongoing drought, the water level in the lake at Lawrence has dropped, but is still supporting many species of birds and egrets both young and old.
The oldest of the chicks rescued and taken into care with volunteers has now been released at the Lawrence colony. Some egrets flew straight out of the transport cages, others walked out and then one flew into the trees. Three just wandered around, looking for insects on the ground, then flew into a nearby tree with a group of other egrets and nesting cormorants and settled in quietly.
There are many egrets still in care, the next oldest chicks are now in a large aviary 'finishing school' honing their flying and foraging skills getting ready for release back at Lawrence in the next couple of weeks.
Fishing line and hooks harm wildlife
WIRES volunteers responded to two separate calls on the same day this week from people who had spotted flying-foxes entangled in fishing line over water. One was over a canal in Ballina; the other over a creek in Wollongbar. By chance, our volunteers still had a canoe on their roof racks after returning from holidays, and were able to respond immediately.
By the time they arrived on the scene of the first flying-fox it had freed itself from the line, despite having been partially submerged and having a lure sill embedded in her wing. The injured flying-fox sought refuge in a mass of spiky vines on the bank of the canal, presenting quite a challenge for the WIRES volunteers. However they soon managed to contain the injured animal.
The flying-fox at the second scene was about 4 metres above the water and the canoe was needed.
Two WIRES volunteers in the canoe were assisted by a member of the public who steadied the canoe against the buffeting wind
After some manipulation of long handled rescue tools, the young flying-fox was cut from her entanglement and gently placed into a rescue bag. Both flying-foxes required urgent medical attention.
At both locations, carelessly discarded fishing line and hooks were abundant, particularly in the branches of a large Figtree with abundant ripe fruit overhanging the Wollongbar swimming hole. Figs are among the favourite fruits for flying-foxes, so the fishing line was an accident waiting to happen. The WIRES volunteers and their teenage son revisited the site the next day to remove some of the fishing tackle to minimise the chance of further injury to wildlife.
Veterinary attention was sought for the two Flying-foxes at Currumbin Wildlife Hospital. Staff there reported that they have at least one case per week of flying-foxed caught in fishing line, and two waterbirds (on average) a day which have become entangled in fishing line or hooks.
WIRES Northern Rivers is frequently called upon to rescue wildlife which has become entangled in fishing line. These rescues are usually quite challenging for our volunteers and can be fatal for our wildlife due to injuries sustained or if not rescued in time.
Fishing is a relaxing sport for many. Please ensure this sport does not turn deadly for our wildlife by leaving rubbish behind. If you see any discarded or entangled line or hooks while out swimming or boating, do take the time to help collect and remove it. You may just save a little life.
Images by Ema Purcell and Sharon McGrigor
I’ve always wanted to help wildlife but...
It is something we hear all the time in WIRES... Many people have rescued a native animal and have felt the joy of providing care and compassion to an injured, sick or orphaned animal. They know they would like to be involved; they want to make a difference but feel they may not be able due to a variety of reasons.
With their February workshop fast approaching, WIRES would like to prompt keen future wildlife wildlife carers to re-think some of their misconceptions about wildlife caring and consider joining...
I live in town – there wouldn’t be many wildlife rescues around my home. Not so. Most of our rescues happen in suburban areas where wildlife has to coexist with cars, domestic pets and people. Lismore, Ballina, Byron Bay, Casino, Brunswick Heads, Murwillumbah are all super busy rescue areas and WIRES always needs more volunteers in those areas.
- I don’t have a back yard or much room to keep animals – Initially animals that are sick or injured just need a small rescue tub or basket for short term care.
- I live in a rental house and am not allowed to have animals here – You can still be involved. When a call is received for an animal in trouble our first priority is to collect the animal. As a volunteer with WIRES you can provide valuable help by transporting it to a vet or to another carer.
- I work full time so I’m not available every day – WIRES volunteers outline what days and times they are available and are only called for rescues at those times. Every contribution helps.
- I don’t have a car or transport –WIRES often need locations for people to drop animals in to – particularly in our busy towns.
- I have dogs or cats at home – It is important to keep pets and wildlife separate but many WIRES members have domestic pets. The important thing is to organise your home so wildlife are kept in a room or area where the pets aren’t allowed to go.
I don’t think I want to handle animals, but I still would like to help - There is a role in WIRES for everyone! You can contribute to WIRES by helping with our 24/7 Hotline (66281898), fundraising, public education, working bees, catering for workshops and so on.
Now is a great time to join WIRES since their next workshop will be held in Lismore on February 23rd. You do need to allow time beforehand to complete the online part of the course, if you do not have access to a computer a workbook can be sent to you. Act now!
For more information about how you can join and contribute call 66281898.
As the heat continues; please remember that our wildlife is also feeling the heat.
Shallow bird baths are a lifesaver for many creatures – place it near a low tree branch or a bushy shrub to give the birds a quick escape if a predator comes near. Larger bird baths with deeper water can be made safe for small critters by placing pebbles or rocks within, creating a small island.
Larger containers of water can be placed farther away from your home for other wildlife - remember to include a large stick so if a creature falls in there is a way out again! Keeping water away from the house also deters snakes and other animals from seeking water from your pet bowls or dripping taps. Change the water daily to stop mosquitos breeding in your garden and ensuring the water is fresh for a thirsty critter in need.
If you own a swimming pool there are some simple things you can do to assist wildlife seeking a drink of water. Always drape something over the edge of your pool so that animals have a surface to grab hold of and climb out. Shadecloth or a thick rope, secured at one end to something heavy outside the pool, is ideal. Check your pool regularly (twice daily) including in the skimmer box. If you do find any animal trapped in a pool, call WIRES immediately on 66281898 for advice.
Flying-foxes are especially susceptible to a run of days with high temperatures. Flying-foxes suffering heat stress may come to the ground or move lower down roosts closer to the ground during daylight hours.
If you see this please call WIRES immediately. In Northern Rivers area please call 66281898, for other areas please call 1300 094 737.
It is important NEVER TO TOUCH OR HANDLE a flying-fox under any circumstance as a very small number may present a risk of contracting Australian Bat Lyssavirus, a disease transmitted through bites and scratches.
If you are waiting for a WIRES rescuer to arrive and you are able to safely provide some form of shade over the flying-fox (without touching it) to keep it out of the direct sun, please do so.
If the flying-fox is on the ground and it’s a hot day, you can place a cool towel or umbrella above it until the rescuer arrives to protect it from the worst of the heat.
Magpie family seeks human help for distressed chick
Whether it be plastic in the ocean, bale yarn in paddocks or rubbish in landfill, everything we discard has a consequence for the environment and the animals with whom we share the planet. So it was for this young magpie whose inquisitiveness landed it in a life-threatening predicament. Luckily for the bird he/she turned up in the backyard of a caring Goonellabah couple’s home and appeared to seek assistance.
The couple are avid bird-watchers and this magpie family were regular visitors to their place proudly showing them this year’s offspring. There was obviously an element of trust built between the birds and their human friends because the parents allowed the couple to capture their chick that was in distress.
The young bird had found a discarded ring of PVC drainage pipe and had managed to get it over its head and between its beak. WIRES were called to assist and rescuer Rowan went to help. Due to the fragility of a bird’s neck and bones any attempt at removing the ring had to be done very gently. Rowan had some previous experience with PVC pipe having extricated a python from gutter pipe so he used wire-cutters again to split the ring and then remove it from the now much-relieved magpie.
The magpie was checked for injuries and then released to join its appreciative family.
This serves as a reminder to us to be vigilant with everything we discard or recycle as anything has the potential to do harm to the environment or wildlife.
If you are keen to make a difference for the wildlife in our area, consider joining WIRES. Now is a great time to join since our next workshop will be held in Lismore on February 23rd and there is time beforehand to complete the online part of the course. For more information about how you can join and contribute call 66281898.
By Rowan Wigmore
WIRES Assists in Cattle Egret Disaster
The severe storms that ripped across north eastern NSW just before Christmas caused havoc within a Cattle Egret breeding colony at Lawrence near Grafton. Local resident Elizabeth checked the colony when the storm had passed and found countless chicks had been blown to the ground.
Cattle Egrets build their nests in large colonies, high in trees near waterways with the parent birds attending their own chicks. Elizabeth soon realised the task was going to monumental and called WIRES Clarence Valley for help. She kindly opened her home to be the main hub of this disaster.
The next morning there were close to 300 chicks rescued. All of differing ages and had been grouped in containers and boxes with labels of which tree they were found near.
Melanie and Julie from Wires Northern Rivers travelled down to Lawrence to help CV members with the huge task of rehydrating and assessing every chick. Throughout the day, badly injured chicks were taken to the vet and the oldest chicks who were perching well where placed back high in their trees. Some chicks were able be reunited in substitute nests. All chicks were tube fed again and by the end of the day there were still approximately 100 chicks needing to come into care.
WIRES volunteers from Clarence Valley and Mid North Coast, together with Northern Rivers bird carers Melanie, Julie, Katy, Jodie, Artemis, Marion and Hanna all took chicks into care. Thirty-three (33) chicks came to Northern Rivers - and what smelly, hungry little chicks they are! Sadly, over the next few days and weeks some chicks showed they had underlying injuries, but a total of 26 healthy young chicks have thrived.
The chicks are now of the age where they need more room so have been transferred to Melanie’s aviaries. They are set up in their separate groups on nest platforms. A ‘jungle gym’ of branches has been built to encourage them to clamber about and exercise, just as they would be doing in the wild. When they are about 8 weeks old and flying they will be released back into the colony at Lawrence.
This tragic loss of life this would have been so much worse if not for the coordinated efforts of Elizabeth and our amazing WIRES volunteers.
Trapping the trapper
When we set a trap for a rat there is always the possibility we might get more than that. Sadly for two pythons recently brought to WIRES, that was the case.
A member of the public was concerned about rats in his chook run and decided to set a number of traps one evening. To his horror the next day he found a lovely juvenile carpet python struggling to extricate itself from two traps. He immediately released the poor snake, placed it in a bag and called WIRES for assistance.
WIRES rescuer Rowan went to the call but the snake had escaped the bag through a small hole and was found in the garden outhouse. The snake was given a preliminary check which revealed that the spine was intact but that there was likely to be some internal organ damage as well as an external wound and severe pain. Rowan took the snake home and administered some oral pain relief while waiting for another WIRES volunteer, Martin, to transport the snake to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital.
Fortunately, this snake was given the all-clear at Currumbin and is now back in the care of WIRES until it is ready to be released.
A second snake, which suffered the same fate, is still at Currumbin Wildlife Hospital and WIRES is awaiting news of his/her condition.
Spring-type rat traps are an inhumane way of controlling vermin. They are non-discriminatory, and various wildlife can be caught in them. Rat poisons are also not recommended as they also carry a risk of secondary death to predators such as raptors, kookaburras and reptiles that may eat the poisoned rats or mice.
Snakes, and particularly pythons, are our greatest natural rat traps and will happily rid us of these rodents silently and free of charge. WIRES recommend learning to coexist with these beautiful animals, and to be grateful for the service they provide. If you do need to place traps for rats or mice, use live-traps (available at hardware stores and online). And if you do find an animal that has been injured by a trap, please call WIRES immediately on 66281898.
If you are keen to make a difference for the wildlife in our area, consider joining WIRES. Now is a great time to join since their next workshop will be held in Lismore on February 23rd and there is time beforehand to complete the online part of the course. For more information about how you can join and contribute call 66281898.
By Rowan Wigmore