Caring for wildlife
No matter how old you are, or where you live, you can help Victoria's wildlife. There's a role for everyone. Here are a few simple things you can do:
- protect or create habitat
- keep wildlife wild
- don't feed wildlife, their lives depend on it
- watch out for wildlife when driving
- be a responsible pet owner by preventing your cats and dogs from attacking wildlife
- help wildlife at risk, particularly threatened or endangered species.
Protect or create habitat
Scientists tell us the best way to protect wildlife is to protect the places where they live.
Protecting habitat also protects entire communities of animals and plants.
Wildlife must have places to find food, shelter and raise their young.
Parks, reserves and other open spaces benefit wildlife by providing habitat, while also providing us with great places to visit and enjoy.
Support wildlife habitat and open space protection in your community.
You can also help wildlife by creating wildlife habitat on your own property.
Planting local indigenous trees such as eucalypts, shrubs such as grevilleas, callistemons (bottlebrushes) and banksias and native grasses will not only look good, but will also provide great habitat and healthy foods for a range of native species.
You could also provide nesting boxes or hollow logs for birds and mammals, or install a bird bath or pond.
There are a range of programs such as Landcare and 'friends of' groups that provide practical projects for volunteers to help protect and repair our environment.
DEPI's Land for Wildlife program is a great way to help protect wildlife habitat. See Land for Wildlife for more information.
Keep wildlife wild
Seeing a native animal in the wild is something special. We should not take these experiences for granted.
Approaching wild animals too closely or too often can threaten their survival by disrupting resting, mating or feeding or disturbing efforts to take care of young.
We need to remember that unlike livestock and domestic pets, wildlife can be stressed by the presence of humans. We are considered predators.
If they are exposed to people too often, wildlife can become accustomed to being around people and lose their natural caution which is important to their survival in the wild.
Remember the bush is their home and you are just visiting, so keep a respectful distance and try to avoid disturbing them.
Approaching wild animals might also result in you getting injured.
Never try to pat or handle wild animals. Nearly every wild animal, no matter how timid or small, is capable of inflicting injury.
Some wildlife also carry diseases that can be transferred to people.
We need to be mindful of our impacts on wildlife habitat.
Dead logs and rocks are important to the survival of many small animals because they provide homes and food, so remember to leave rocks and logs where you find them.
When camping, bring your own firewood, take your rubbish home and don't use detergents in or near our rivers or creeks.
There are plenty of other ways in which you can get up close to wildlife without harming them.
Visits to local zoos or wildlife parks are a great way to see and learn about wildlife.
Another positive way to have close contact with wild animals is to volunteer at your local wildlife shelter, where you'll find a range of injured or sick wildlife in need of human help.
For more information on wildlife shelters in your area, please visit the wildlife rehabilitation section.
Let wildlife feed themselves
Please don't feed wildlife.
Free-ranging wildlife rarely, if ever, need to be fed by humans.
If there's wildlife on your property or if you see wildlife in a park or reserve, there is sure to be plenty of food available or the animals wouldn't be there.
Feeding wildlife can affect the normal abundance of animals that can be sustained in an area.
This can result in wildlife becoming overabundant and damaging their habitat which reduces the survival prospects for all wildlife in the area.
Even after major events such as bushfires, there is usually enough food available to feed surviving animals.
Animals that have been fed over time may also become dependent on this food source, so that when the feeding stops (such as if you go on holidays or move house), the animals may starve because they have lost the instinct to fend for themselves.
We also need to be aware that human food is not necessarily good for wildlife.
Native animals have adapted to a particular diet over many years and altering or supplementing their diets with foods that they wouldn't otherwise eat, or by increasing quantities of some foods can have negative effects on their health.
For example, wallabies fed bread can develop a serious disease of the jaw that often results in the death of the animal.
Unnatural congregations of wildlife at feeding points can also result in the spread of diseases that in some cases can be transferred to people or make the animals vulnerable to predators.
For more information on why we shouldn't feed wildlife, see:
Sharing the road with wildlife
You can help minimise the number of wildlife killed on Victorian roads by being conscious of animal behaviour near roadsides and by following a few simple steps.
Firstly, be aware that wildlife often cross our roads. Taking precautions when driving, especially in country areas, can save an animal's life and avoid damage to your car or a serious accident. Scan the road for wildlife as you drive, particularly at night.
Secondly, when wildlife is on the road, it is best to allow the animal to move off the road before passing. Along roads that are bordered by steep banks, animals often find themselves trapped and unable to avoid being hit by oncoming traffic. To give them the best chance of survival, drive with particular care through these areas.
Lastly, do not throw any rubbish from car windows, including apple cores or other fruit scraps. This can attract wildlife to roadsides. Wildlife will cross a road to eat food they can smell on the other side.
What should I do if I hit an animal with my car?
If you do hit an animal with your vehicle, please pull over if it's safe to do so. The animal may be able to be treated or may need to be euthanased if the injuries are severe and it is suffering.
If you think it can be saved, place the animal in a warm, dark place and transport it to the nearest wildlife shelter as soon as possible. If the animal is beyond help, it should be humanely destroyed to prevent further suffering. Never leave an injured animal without providing or obtaining some aid.
Further information on what to do if you find a sick or injured native animal can be found in the wildlife rehabilitation section.
Responsible pet ownership
Cats and dogs are wonderful companion animals. However, they are also very efficient predators of our native wildlife and kill and injure many wild animals every year.
Even well fed and cared for cats and dogs instinctively hunt and chase. Unchecked dogs can harass and kill native animals such as kangaroos and koalas while cats will hunt and kill native birds, possums, frogs and lizards.
Rare and threatened species such as bandicoots are particularly at risk from domestic pets.
The responsibility for managing domestic animals rests with owners. By encouraging responsible pet ownership in your family and neighbourhood we can continue to enjoy our pets and help native animals.
You can reduce the effects cats and dogs have on wildlife and better care for your pet by following a few simple rules:
- Keep your cat indoors Roaming cats do large amounts of damage to local wildlife populations. Putting a bell on your cat can help, although keeping it inside is the best thing you can do. Keeping your cat indoors will protect it from fights and reduces the risk of your cat being injured as well.
- Ensure your dog is kept under control at all times Put dogs on leashes when in nature reserves or in the bush. Keep your dog confined in the backyard, particularly when you're not there. If you live in a flat, walk your dog daily and properly train your dog to respond to your commands.
- Never leave unwanted pets in the bush Besides the impact they have on native animals, unwanted pets may not survive and will suffer needlessly. Even returning native animals to the bush creates problems. Once native animals have been kept in captivity they may no longer know how to fend for themselves. There is also the risk that there may not be sufficient food and shelter for them because of other animals in the area. If you can no longer look after your pet, take the time to find them a happy new home, or take them to the RSPCA.
- Desex your pets Desexing can prevent unwanted litters of kittens or pups that contribute to stray and feral populations. Desexed pets are also less territorial and tend to wander less.
- Microchip your dog or cat Pets that are microchipped can be returned safely and quickly to their owners if they get lost and reduces the amount of time they can spend hunting native wildlife.
Minimising your pets' contact with wild creatures also decreases their chances of catching diseases and parasites, including rabies.
It also prevents your pets from passing diseases to wild animals as well.
Helping wildlife at risk
Victoria's threatened and endangered wildlife are in particular need of our help.
Species such as the powerful owl, striped legless lizard and the mountain pygmy possum are struggling to survive alongside humans. Currently, there are almost 200 animals at risk of extinction in Victoria. The race is on to save them.
Government programs have brought some of these species, notably the brush-tailed rock-wallaby, eastern barred bandicoots and helmeted honeyeaters back from the brink through captive breeding and reintroduction programs. However there still remains much work to do.
You can help by becoming involved in or supporting a recovery team or helping to implement a recovery plan.
These plans outline the causes of a species decline and what needs to be done to prevent that species from becoming extinct. For more information on threatened wildlife in Victoria, visit Threatened species and communities.