For many, part of the attraction of getting off the beaten track and out into the wilderness is the feeling of ‘being at one with nature’. But when we venture into national parks and the like, we may unwittingly be having a negative impact on the wildlife that calls the area home.
So what can we do to ensure that when we head off on our next camping or caravanning holiday, we’re not harming the wildlife we came to enjoy? We caught up with Wildlife Victoria emergency response officer Andrew Hunter to find out.
What’s the best way to enjoy native fauna without having a negative impact?
The best way to enjoy native animals is with a pair of binoculars! Viewing animals from a distance allows them to behave naturally. You may be surprised at some of the behaviours you can observe when the animals are unaware of your presence.
Should you feed native animals when you’re camping?
You should never feed any native animals. Not only do they receive minimal nutritional value from human food but it can also cause health issues leading to sickness and sometimes death. Also, when wild animals are fed by humans they will start to associate humans with food and will lead to more human/wildlife interactions and ultimately more injured/sick animals.
It is always best to let the animals fend for themselves, they do not need any extra handouts to survive.
What can people do to help native animals when visiting wilderness areas?
People visiting wilderness areas can do a few basic things to ensure the safety of the native animals that live there. First, be aware of fire bans and general fire safety. Second, leave only footprints! Pack out whatever rubbish you bring in, no one likes a litter bug.
What should you do if you find an injured animal?
If you find any injured native animal you can call a wildlife service, or the appropriate organisation in your state, and report the case. Designated Emergency Response Operators will take your details and either provide advice or will try to arrange a rescue with a volunteer.
There are steps that the general public can take when they find an injured animal. First thing would be to assess the type of species, as some are dangerous to humans.
If you find an injured snake, goanna, large sea-bird, bird of prey, or a bat species do not attempt to handle or approach it. Take a note of your location (any landmarks or signs) or, if possible, note your GPS coordinates and call a wildlife service.
If you come across an injured bird, lizard, or small mammal and you feel comfortable to do so, you can gently pick up the animal up using a towel or sheet and contain it in a small cardboard box and drop it off at your local vet clinic. All vet clinics will see, and provide welfare for, any injured animal at no charge to the general public and can coordinate with the relivant wildlife service for rehabilitation.
Finally, if you come across an injured kangaroo, do not approach the animal, take clear notes of where you are located and call your wildlife service. If the kangaroo is on the road-side, safely pull to the side and turn on your hazard lights to alert fellow drivers. If the kangaroo is causing a traffic hazard, call 000 directly.
What should you do if you find a baby bird?
A very common report that we receive is calls about baby birds, especially during the spring months. If you find an injured baby bird or if the bird has been handled by a cat or dog, contain it and get it to your local vet clinic or call your wildlife service.
If you find a non-injured baby bird that does not yet have its feathers or has some adult feathers but is mostly "fluffy," look in surrounding trees for a nest. If you can reach the nest you can return the baby and monitor for its parents.
It is a common myth that parent birds will reject a baby after it has been handled by a human. Adult birds can go off for a few hours to forage so you will have to monitor the situation and ensure they do return. If you do not see a nest, you can make a "false nest" using a waterproof container with holes for drainage. Secure the fake nest in the nearest tree, place some leaf litter for bedding, and put the baby bird in the container. Again, you will have to invest some time to monitor and ensure the parents come back. If the parents do not return take the bird to your local vet clinic or call a wildlife service.
If you find a baby bird that has most of its adult feathers but is not yet flying, it may just be a fledgeling. Fledgelings are a developmental stage in many bird species, where they leave the nest and build their flight muscles from the ground. You may witness the bird jumping up and down fluttering, this is the bird's form of "weightlifting" and is normal. The parents will still be tending to the bird so again monitor to ensure they are around.
If you are unsure you can always call a wildlife service and we will assist to the best of our abilities.
Is it ok to take pets camping?
If pets are allowed at the campsite or park you are visiting by all means it is ok to bring them along. However, keep to general responsible pet ownership practices while camping with your furry friends. Keep your pets on a lead and contain them at twilight and night time hours.
If you see a feral animal, is there anything you should do?
If you see a feral animal you can report it to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Parks Victoria (if in a national or state park), or your local council.
If you find an injured animal, please contact the hotline in your state:
QLD: RSPCA, QLD - 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625)
SA: Fauna Rescue SA - 08 8289 0896
ACT: ACT Wildlife - 0432 300 033
NSW: WIRES - 1300 094 737
TAS: Wildlife Management Branch -1300 827 727
WA: Wildcare - 08 9474 9055
VIC: Wildlife Victoria - 1300 094 535
NT: Wildcare NT- 0408 885 341