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Helping South Australian wildlife affected by bushfires

DEW shares the community’s concern for South Australian wildlife impacted by bushfires.

The best way for most people to contribute at this time is to donate to the Wildlife Recovery Fund, which will be used to re-establish the habitat of native animals – especially threatened species. Protecting habitats will provide food and resources for the long-term benefit of wildlife. This will provide long-term food and resources. Donations can be made through the Nature Foundation of SA website.

You can also help by:

If you would like to learn how best to support wildlife post-fires, including helping injured wildlife and providing water or food, see below.

Injured wildlife

The welfare of injured wildlife is vitally important. These animals require specialised care and treatment to recover and be returned to the wild.

If you find a sick, injured or orphaned native animal, it is vital that it gets appropriately cared for.

Animals must not suffer because of the inexperience or lack of resources of the person caring for them. If you don’t have the necessary skills or experience to care for an injured animal, you should seek advice or give the animal to an experienced carer. Search online for your local fauna rescue organisation.

If you intend to keep an injured animal to provide short-term care for it, you will require a Rescue Permit issued by DEW. Permits are only suitable for people with a good knowledge of the animals and how to meet their needs.

For more information about caring for injured wildlife, visit the Rescue or rehabilitate native animals page.

Note: Firegrounds are dangerous places, even once the fire is out. Do not enter these areas to look for injured wildlife unless you are suitably prepared and it is safe to do so.

For more information about caring for Kangaroo Island’s wildlife after the recent bushfires, contact the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Network.

Providing water

Accessing clean, fresh water can be an issue for wildlife following bushfires.

One way that you can help is by providing wildlife with a safe supply of clean water and changing it daily to prevent the spread of disease. Some tips include:

  • Clean, thoroughly dry, and refill water containers daily with fresh water, or use a refilling water station, to prevent the spread of disease.
  • Provide water at both ground level (suitable for most mammals, birds and reptiles) and elevated in trees for animals that are reluctant to visit the ground (such as possums and some birds).
  • Water containers should be shallow, robust and stable. Add a rock or stick (or other suitable material) to help smaller animals safely access the water.
  • Place water at least 50m away from public roads. Rather than one large water container, provide several small containers with a lower volume of water. Space water containers about 500m apart.
  • If possible, place water containers in shaded areas or clearings that are surrounded by a small amount of clear area around the container to encourage timid species and reduce the risk of predators.
  • Do not add electrolytes, rehydration solutions or sugar to water.
  • As conditions improve you should begin to phase out the supply of water stations.

Providing food

Under normal circumstances, DEW does not recommend feeding wildlife. It can alter their natural behaviour, cause poor nutrition and spread disease, among other things. See the Feeding wildlife page for more information.

Following the recent bushfires, particularly on Kangaroo Island, some wildlife may benefit from short-term supplementary feeding – but only until the natural environment recovers.

Only supplementary feed on your own land, or with the permission of the landholder. If you supplementary feed, always provide fresh water with any food offered. If there is still vegetation in the area, the best way you can help is by providing water only.

Don’t provide food or water in national parks or other public areas. Supplementary feeding in national parks is being carefully managed by DEW to ensure bushfire-affected wildlife is supported and these sensitive areas are protected from impacts of pests, diseases, predators and weeds.

If you do choose to provide food for wildlife, remember:

  • Choosing the right food is very important as different species have different requirements, and the preferred food of one species may be hazardous to others. See the table below for suitable foods for specific species.
  • Always offer fresh water if you offer supplementary food.
  • Always consider the risks of overfeeding, malnutrition, predation, misadventure, an increase in feral animal numbers and risks to human and animal health and safety whenever food is offered.
  • Remove uneaten food and clean all food containers daily to prevent spread of disease and attraction of unwanted pests.
  • Never feed raw meat, cooked bones, bread, baked goods, avocado, rice, banana, onion, garlic, chocolate, sugar, honey, molasses, brassicas, dairy products or processed foods with artificial sweeteners.
  • Avoid providing mixtures of peanut butter, honey and rolled oats as they are harmful to some animals.
  • Hay should not be provided, especially in bushland areas, due to the risk of spreading weeds.
  • Feed should be left in shaded areas and where wildlife is safer from predators.
  • Place food at least 50m away from public roads.
  • Never throw birdseed directly onto the ground.
  • Phase out supplementary feeding as conditions improve.

Feeding specialist animals

Do not feed specialist animals (such as koalas) or endangered species (such as the Kangaroo Island dunnart and glossy black-cockatoos) – leave this to the experts.

DEW is working with conservation organisations, wildlife carers, researchers and other land managers to ensure these species are supported in the best ways possible to ensure their immediate welfare and to protect them from further harm. If you want to support these species, the best thing you can do is donate to the wildlife recovery effort via the Wildlife Recovery Fund.

Biosecurity

Remember to keep biosecurity in mind if you want to help wildlife on Kangaroo Island. If you are providing supplementary feed, remember that hay and birdseed can introduce weeds, so do not provide these feeds in bushland areas, especially national parks. 

Suitable foods for short-term supplementary feeding

 Animal Feed in small amounts Tips for feeding Do not feed
Kangaroos and wallabies

Macropod pellets (available from rural supply stores)

If macropod pellets are not available, use horse pellets (not high-performance mixes) or macropod muesli

Do not hand feed

Scatter food in the early morning and evening in small amounts – only replace as needed

Provide fresh water

Avoid pony mix, high-performance mix or stud mixes that have rice or other grains, sugar, molasses or pollard (as it is too rich)

Lucerne (also too rich)

Grass or oaten hay in bushland areas (it is a weed risk)

Brassicas, such as cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower

Sweet potato and carrot may be harmful for some macropods

Brushtail and ringtail possums Native plants and flowers
Small amounts of sweet potato or pumpkin

Place in fork of tree after sunset
Dispose of rotting and soiled food

Hint: Possums are mainly folivores (leaf eaters)

Avoid fruit or too much starchy vegetables

Avoid rolled oats, peanut butter or honey

Seed- and grain-eating birds, including parrots, cockatoos, galahs and finches

Good quality wild bird blocks with large and small seeds

Fruit with seeds removed, such as apples, pears and melons

Hang bird blocks and fruit in trees

Do not scatter seed on the ground. It attracts predators and makes other species sick

Dispose of rotting and soiled food

Avoid black or grey sunflower seeds as they can make birds sick

Avoid seed mixes other than wild bird mix or blocks

Lorikeets Nectar mix Do not leave food on the ground as it can make birds vulnerable to being attacked by predators Do not offer water and sugar or honey mixes
Honeyeaters Insect meal or nectar mix

Place insect meal or nectar mix in the fork of a tree

Do not leave food on the ground as birds may be attacked by predators

Do not offer water and sugar or honey mixes

Source: adapted from Wildlife Health Australia, NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment; and Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

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