Hayley’s guide to helping distressed Wahroonga wildlife

Nurse Hayley here again, this time with some useful tips about the Wahroonga wildlife. I worked in the UK for many years as a veterinary nurse  surrounded by the beautiful British wildlife.  But I can honestly say nothing quite prepared me for the wonders of the Wahroonga wildlife! Possums to echidnas, lizards to bats, you name it we have treated it at Fox Valley Animal Hospital. Here’s my guide to looking after the wonderful Wahroonga wildlife when you happen to come across injured, sick or lost animals in your day-to-day.

One of the many joys of being a vet nurse at Fox Valley Animal Hospital is the diversity of animals I get to work with on a daily basis. Being situated in the leafy surrounds of the Wahroonga community means we get lots of sick, injured or orphaned native animals bought in to us by members of the public.

We also get to work alongside and assist Wires and Sydney Metro who care for and rehabilitate the Wahroonga wildlife  natives. We see a wide variety of local wildlife, catering for everything from reptiles through to marsupials. Dr Alex’s team dedicates time, provides medication and treats all Wahroonga wildlife that visit us at no charge.

It can be distressing to come across an injured animal and you may feel helpless as to what you can do. You may be concerned as to how to handle them correctly and even knowing who to call can be hard especially if it’s in a remote area or late at night.

Every situation is different but here are some frequently asked questions that may assist you and help our beautiful Wahroonga wildlife.


 Q. What do I do if I can  see the animal is obviously injured?

If it is safe for you to do so, please bring the injured animal in to Fox Valley Animal Hospital. Gently pick them up in a towel as it’s important that you minimise stress by not letting them see you. Stressed animals are more likely to panic and can cause further damage to themselves and to you. It’s best to place them into a dark box. Any animal that is injured will be in shock so it’s important to keep them warm and quiet. These simple steps can make the difference between life and death.

Please do not give any food/water as native animal’s diets are very specialised. Plus feeding an animal suffering from shock can be fatal.

Transport distressed wildlife in the box and never place that box in the boot of your car as this may further injure and stress the animal.


Safety first!

As these animals are wild and stressed here are some pointers to keep in mind.

Larger animals such as kangaroos, wallabies, wombats or koalas can be dangerous when injured and can lash out and inflict injuries. They are powerful animals and should be approached with great care.

If you are dealing with larger wildlife, we recommend calling Sydney Metro or Wires and getting an experienced rescuer to come to their aid. If you are able to do so, stay with the animal and keep an eye on it from a distance while you wait for help.

Flying foxes (fruit bats) or any other bats should not be handled as they can carry a virus called ‘Lyssavirus’. Wildlife rescuers have been vaccinated against catching the virus and are able to handle them. Call for assistance when dealing with flying foxes to avoid any bites, scratches or exposure the virus.


Q. What should I do if I find a young bird?

During the spring time in Wahroonga many young birds leave the nest. These fledglings can spend up to 2 weeks on the ground learning to fly. In most cases the parents will continue to feed them so it’s best to observe and monitor to see if  the parents return.

If the fledgling is injured, abandoned or in danger please bring it in to us. Some baby birds such as Bush Turkeys are self-sufficient and although they look helpless they are ready to take on the big wide world.


Q. What should I do if I find a possum?

If you have found a baby possum and its parents are nowhere to be seen it’s best to wrap it in something soft and place it in a quiet, warm box.

You can keep it warm by filling a hot water bottle or drink bottle with hot water from the tap (not boiling water from the kettle), wrapping the hot water bottle in two layers of towel and placing it underneath the possum.

Please do not attempt to give the possum anything to eat or drink.

A possum that has been brought in by your cat will need to beassessed by a vet, even if it is not visibly injured. Adult possums (especially Brush Tails) should be handled with care as they can be quite feisty and strong.


Q. What if I have an echidna in my garden?

Echidnas can travel up to 10km from their burrows per day, leaving their young behind for 5 to 7 days in search of food. If you see an echidna, please keep your dog inside the house. If the echidna is not injured, it will move on within 24 hours, so please be patient.

If it’s injured, please bring it in to us for treatment and care.  It is important to protect yourself as the spikes are very sharp and used in defence. Sometimes it is easier to try and slide something underneath them and scoop them up into a secure container.  A pair of heavy duty gardening gloves will help protect you from the armour of spikes!

Nurse Louise and wildlife carer cleaning the wounds of a flying fox that was caught in netting.

Nurse Louise and wildlife carer Sarah cleaning the wounds of a flying fox that was caught in netting.


Q. I have flying-foxes (fruit bats) in my garden.  What should I do?

These animals are essential to our eco-system and over 20 species of trees depend upon them for survival. If there are fruit bats feeding from trees in or near your garden, they are attracted to the temporary food source while the trees are fruiting or flowering and are not likely to be around for more than a few weeks.

Do not be tempted to net your trees without looking into appropriate wildlife-friendly alternatives. Many bats will become entangled and struggle desperately to escape causing fatal injuries or a slow death. We have  dealt with many horrific netting injuries at Fox Valley Animal Hospital and they are truly awful.

IMPORTANT: Please do not handle a sick or injured flying fox. Call Wires or Sydney Metro for assistance and wait for a trained rescuer to arrive.


Q. What should I do if I find a snake?

Increased temperatures in spring and summer mean that snakes and otherreptiles often come out to bask in the sun. If you see a snake in your garden or house, do not try to catch or kill the snake.

Walk away from it slowly and keep an eye on it from a safe distance (several metres away).

Keep your pets safely away from it and the snake will usually move on in its own time. Snakes don’t want to be near humans any more than humans generally want to be near snakes.

If the snake is injured or you really want it removed call Wires or Sydney Metro as they have trained volunteers to assist.


Q. What should I do if I find a lizard?

 Blue tongued lizards are harmless to people and benefit your garden by feeding on snails and slugs.  We encourage clients to look after them by placing plastic piping around the yard for them to take cover in from predators such as cats and dogs.

Just like other Wahroonga wildlife, we will treat and look after any that have been injured. Because lizards are exothermic, it is important to keep them warm. A quiet, dark box will do nicely to transport them to us.


Q. What should I do if I find a turtle?

Turtles found wandering, even in suburban areas, are rarely escaped pets and are mostly wild animals. As long as the turtle is not injured, it can be transported in an escape-proof box to the nearest natural water source and released. If the turtle has a cracked shell it will need our help so please bring it in to us.  It’s a good idea to keep the pet dog inside as they may be too interested in the passing visitor.


Q. What if I find a dead animal?

Many of our native animals are marsupials which mean they carry pouch young, including kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, wombats and possums.

Even if the mother has been killed, there is still a good chance that her pouch young may have survived-  and can be rescued, rehabilitated and released back to the wild. Please remove the baby carefully and keep it warm.

These little guys will need immediate care by a specialised carer to stand the best chance of survival. Please bring them straight to us or call Wires or Sydney Metro for help.

Marty the swamp wallaby that was bought into us for initial treatment now in his carer's home.

Marty the swamp wallaby being ‘greased’ to protect his skin. His mum was hit by a car, and Jane our wildlife carer is his surrogate. He is going well.

Please – never attempt to feed these babies as it will cause more harm than good.


With any wildlife rescue do not forget they are wild animals and can be unpredictable. It is always a safe option to place any injured animal into a quiet, warm box as to minimise stress levels and prevent further damage.

Never try to feed or care for injured wildlife yourself as many need specialised care. If in doubt call us on 9489 4805 or either of the rescue organisations. Wires can be contacted on 13 00 094 737 or Sydney Metro on 02 9413 4300.

And together, we can keep all the Wahroonga wildlife as safe from harm and happy and healthy for all to enjoy for years to come.




About the Author
Owner and Vet Alex Brittan, Vet Katie Syms and the team of Fox Valley Animal Hospital pride themselves on quality service. Fox Valley Animal Hospital is the one you choose for your family pet when the care your animal receives really matters.