LAST UPDATED: 12 November 2020
Australian summers can be tough for people and animals...
And while many of us can endure the hottest days with the help of air conditioning and plenty of fluids to keep us hydrated, our wildlife friends can suffer terribly during extreme heat, and even die. Here are 6 ways you can help make the difference between life and death for wildlife during increasingly hot and dry Aussie summers:
Sweltering summer days can be uncomfortable to be outside in for just a few minutes. Imagine what it is like for animals who have no way of escaping the heat. During heat waves, native animals can suffer terribly and even die — but the simple act of providing them save access to water can help them cope.
- Leave shallow dishes of water in the shade (try to avoid metal dishes unless they're in full shade as they will get very hot in the sun)
- If you can put some dishes high up/in trees this will help keep wildlife safe from predators.
- Shallow bowls are best, as small birds can become trapped in deep dishes and drown (cat litter trays can actually be quite handy for this reason, and these are often found in discount stores for just a few dollars)
- If you only have large bowls or buckets — be sure to place some large twigs or rocks/bricks inside to allow any trapped animals to make their way out.
Not only will this help your animal companions escape the heat, but it will enable thirsty wildlife to access water in your backyard safely.
It may feel counter-intuitive to prevent wildlife from cooling down in your pool on a hot day. But heat-stressed animals looking to cool down are at risk of drowning in pools so taking away that access can actually save lives (it's also not ideal for animals to be drinking pool water as they can get sick). Ensure animals have access to safe and fresh water sources in your back yard instead.
If you spot any critters who look like they're struggling, call your local vet as well as local wildlife group for help. Particularly during natural disasters (eg. bushfires), wildlife carers can be overwhelmed — so it's worth contacting your vet who can assess the situation and treat injured animals (for free).
- Be particularly mindful at dusk and at night as many nocturnal animals will be more active during this time.
- Prepare an emergency kit to keep in your car including water, a blanket/towel, and a box
- Save a few local wildlife rescue contacts in your phone so that you can ring for advice if you need it.
- Here are some measures you can take to help reduce the chances of animals being hit on the road.
After extreme heat events and bushfires, Australias's flying foxes are in desperate need of help. Pictured is a flying fox who came into emergency vets after bushfires ravaged his home. Having survived the terrible fires, and with so many of his normal food sources gone, he was hungry and searching for food. This is what happened.
Wildlife who have survived through Australia's bushfire crisis are hungry. They have not only lost their homes, but their sources of food. And during this time of ecosystem devastation and habitat loss, it's never been more crucial to protect species like flying foxes — because they're the ones who pollinate trees. The more flying foxes we can keep healthy and happy, the better our ecosystems will survive and regenerate. So please, take down your tree netting, and share some love for wildlife by sharing your fruit trees
If you have found an animal who is visibly distressed, wrap them loosely in a blanket or towel if it is safe to do so* and place them in a cardboard box, before placing the box in a dark, quiet, and cool place.
*Note that injured animals will often be quite frightened, so if you feel worried they may scratch or bite try gently ushering them into a washing basket without touching them instead of wrapping them in a blanket or towel.
Offer water but not food and call a wildlife carer immediately, or your local vet. Never pour water into an animals' mouth — this is not natural and can cause additional distress and even physical harm. Instead, provide cool water in a bowl and allow them to lap from it.
DO NOT wrap heat stressed animals in wet towels or submerse in water — this can kill them.
What does a heat-stressed animal look like?
Some of the signs that a native animal is heat-stressed include:
- Nocturnal (active at night) animals, such as possums, out during the day
- Tree-dwelling animals such as koalas, on the ground
- Birds or animals displaying any loss of balance, collapse, confusion or panting
- If you come across a wild animal being docile — ie. if you can approach them and they don't run away — this is a good sign that they are not well and need urgent care.