Who really gives a hoot?

Owls are my choice of topic for November mainly because so many have come into care recently. There are only ten species in Australia and they fall into two genera or groups. ‘Tyto’ are commonly called barn owls while ‘Ninox’ are hawk owls which basically lack the oval facial  discs found on barn owls.

The Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) is the largest owl in Australia and are known to lift their own weight when carrying off prey. Males reach a height of 65cm. They are on endangered lists across Australia with only an estimated population of two hundred breeding pairs left in the wilds of Victoria. They rarely come to ground for prey, living mainly on possums and gliders but also taking birds opportunistically. Breeding season here is during June with a nesting period of around nine weeks and a further dependency on parents for about six months.

This chick came into care last week after having been found on the ground during a bush walk. The condition of his eyes suggested head trauma. The bird tried but failed to lift off and from the way he crashed into some fencing suggested blindness. There was no sign of parents but it was mid-morning. Collision with a car seems unlikely because of the distance to the road and low rate of local traffic. Sometimes they raise two chicks and the stronger chick throws the weaker one out of the nest etc. In any case, this baby was vet checked and seemed fine except for the eyes, so, I have been feeding him up and will watch him for a couple of weeks. Fingers crossed that he has an option other than euthanasia.

There’s little chance of survival in the wild but with a species this rare and special, often a zoo or sanctuary will take them and maybe breed them so their chicks go back to the wild. One of the most spectacular features of this breed is the vivid yellow circles around black pupils in the eyes – you can see even in my amateur photo’s the damage done to those.

Barn owl  (Tyto alba) can be difficult to differentiate with masked owls at this young age, – it’s impossible to tell without knowing the age and being able to confirm via weight etc.  In any case this baby was picked up by a man on a push-bike who watched a flock of ravens swooping, pecking and hassling it. It seemed to be running scared and eventually fell into the lake where he was certain it was all over.

Then, one wing appeared and began flapping as it dragged itself out of the water and onto dry land. The Ravens came back screeching but the cyclist decided not to leave it to nature and interfered by throwing his towel over the owl and performing a rescue. Again, not sure what the rest of the story was, but the bird ate heartily for a few days and late one night was returned to his home turf, where hopefully his parents were waiting.

Masked Owls (Tyto novaehollandiae) As you can see from my profile picture this month, the facial disc is very similar to that of the barn owl above, but this species is larger and that heart-shaped mask over the face is more obvious. This juvenile was caught in a barbed-wire fence, probably practising his hunting skills on rabbits. Originally thought to be dead, this beautiful baby was vet-checked for fractures and then had his scratches cleaned while limp and exhausted. They often faint when stressed by being captured. Rehydration soon had him perching again and two weeks later he was successfully released back into his home range.Tawny Frogmouth owls (Podargus strigoides)

These are not really owls despite their common name. They don’t have the talons and the beak is all wrong. These insectivores are very common and come into care often as a result of hunting bugs which fly towards headlights of moving cars.  So busy looking at the bugs they don’t see the vehicle at all.  Most of the time they stretch out and become statue still, avoiding detection by pretending to be part of a dead tree branch. This pair was lucky to escape with headaches and were released within a few days.

That’s it for this month, hope you enjoyed meeting some of my favourite birds…

Be well, and don’t forget to share my link with any of your friends who may give a hoot about Aussie wildlife.  http://www.facebook.com/VickiLee.AuthorFOLLOWERS

Until next time, be well.

Vicki

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Sugar Glider twin orphans in need of names

(Petaurus breviceps)

10gr sugar glider twins

10gr sugar glider twins

The Sugar Glider’s scientific name translates to ‘short-headed rope dancer’ although I don’t know if there are any ‘long-headed rope dancers’ out there. In any case, these tiny babies have survived a few days and seem to be thriving despite, the trauma of losing mum and out of pouch too early.

A domestic cat killed their mother and dragged the body home to display to the family one night last week. Unfortunately, nobody thought to check the pouch until the next day when dumping the body of the ‘possum’ into the bin. The twin joeys were cold and limp when the guilt-ridden cat owner called them in. Furless, ears not up yet, eyes still closed and weighing 8 & 10grams, they were helpless and vulnerable. The weight puts them at around 55 days old (according to the chart for Sugar Gliders which I assume them to be since the cat had decapitated the mother during his playtime.)

I brought their body temperature up slowly over a few hours while focussed on rehydration at the rate of one drop each per hour. They live in a hotbox (stable temperature and humidity) and are doing well enough for me to name them. I wanted to share their progress so heated up a room and took them out for a minute of video. It’s a short, not very professional taping but I can’t risk stressing them with retakes etc.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7n9Nx_0GT3E

Sugar gliders can be found in forests in the eastern states of Australia. Nocturnal feeders and silent gliders means not many people have the pleasure of seeing one in the wild.  They build tidy bowl shaped nests from green eucalypt leaves and live in community groups, complete with a dominant male who uses glands on his head and chest to scent-mark territory and even other members of his group. They breed twice a year between June to January in the wild but the pet trade breeds them a third time in some cases. Birth happens 16 days after breeding generally with twins or triplets. Like most other marsupials (pouch young) joeys tiny, this species reaches six (6) grams at 50 days.

They live the nest and forage for themselves at 50gr / 120days old. Communication is verbal with a series of yips, squeals and hisses.

As foraging adults they eat a range of different foods to stay healthy. Insects, nectar and polled, seeds and eucalyptus sap which they’ll scrape the bark of trees to get to.  Adults weigh 150 to 170 grams and can glide up to 100 metres. They can live for nine years in the wild and around five as domestic pets.

 

Here’s a photo of what they’ll look like as adults. I hear they’re hugely popular pets in the US and I’m happy to let you guys recycle any suitable names already in use.

Finally, I need to let you know we have one male and one female to name, so post back some suggestions, or vote for a suggestion someone else made. I know they are very popular pets and enthusiasts house them in huge enclosures which allow them to glide while others keep them in little bird cages. I only ask you to do the best you can for the needs of any pet in your care – oh,  and please be responsible cat owners….

Until next month, be well

Vicki Lee

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Cuddly Koalas

(Phascolarctos cinereus)                                                                                                           These marsupials are one of the most popular Aussie creatures with both locals and tourists alike. Koala is an aboriginal term which translates as ‘non drinker’ while the scientific name means ‘ash grey pouched bear,’ although they are not bears at all. Along with the Greater Glider (topic of blog #3) the Koala survives on a diet of gum leaves. They are very fussy eaters with strong preferences for about ten species from an available 600-700 different gum trees.

An adult consumes around 500gr of leaves per day. Gum leaves are low in nutrition and to most animals they are extremely poisonous but the slow metabolism allows Koalas to keep food within their system until maximum nutrition is extracted. This slow metabolic rate is also the reason they sleep 18hrs a day and conserve maximum energy. Females start breeding from three years of age, breed once a year and give birth 35 days or so, later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like the Kangaroo, a tiny, unfurred and blind joey finds its way into mum’s pouch on its own.   For the first six months, the joey lives on an exclusive diet of milk. It leaves the pouch for short periods and remains on mum’s chest / in her arms.

 

Mums and joeys communicate via soft clicking, murmuring and squeaking sounds. Grunts signal a reprimand. Adult males bellow to show dominance and all Koalas can sound like a screaming baby when in distress. Shaking/trembling generally accompany this sound.

It continues to drink milk for the first year although it is too big to fit in the pouch. Pap is produced by the mother as a means of transitioning from milk to leaves – basically she produces this soft, runny substance as a means of passing on micro organisms from her own digestive tract.  Joey is often seen on her back now.

The Koala’s nose is one of its most important features, and it has a very highly developed sense of smell. This is necessary to differentiate between types of gum leaves and to detect whether the leaves are poisonous or not.

Adult sizes: 70-90cm (27-36 inches)    Weight: 4-9kg (9-20lb) Southern Koalas are 30% larger than Northern and Males generally larger than females. Lifespan 10 – 17yrs

Threats:  Early settlers hunted them for their plush, warm pelts to the point they were extinct in South Australia by 1924. Now almost 80% of Australia’s Eucalypt forests have been decimated and the rest is unprotected or on private land, for the most part. 4,000 Koalas are killed by cars or dogs each year.  Large scale Wildfires /Bushfires are common in summer months and also take a toll.  Finally, what we are seeing locally is ‘dieback’ which results from land degradation, leaching of soil nutrients, changes in the composition of vegetation communities, rising water levels underground, salination of the soil, erosion caused by wind and water, exposure to weather and excessive defoliation. The last cause refers to a loss of leaves to the point the tree cannot photosynthezise (feed itself) and dies.

This is a photo taken at Raymond Island (Victoria) during the recent Koala count which showed a good result. This is a site which suffered overcrowding by Koalas and many had to be relocated/sterilised to give the vegetation a chance of survival.  The older trees are not likely to recover but thousands of seedlings are being planted for future use.

Apologies for the delay, but technical problems resulted in a new computer which runs on a new system I’m still coming to grips with.  As always, I invite you to subscribe to my blog or if you prefer, stay updated by hitting LIKE on my facebook page here:

http://www.facebook.com/VickiLee.AuthorFOLLOWERS

Until next month, take care and be well.

Vicki

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Save a Devil family today.

Tasmanian Devil   (Sarcophilus harisii)

No way could this bad-tempered, carnivorous, marsupial be mistaken for anything else. Well, maybe a smallish dog, but only until it delivers one of its spine-chilling screeches. Then you’ll know how it came to be branded a devil.  We took a trip to Tasmania especially to see these creatures in the wild before they disappear.  They can look fierce and scary but when we cuddled some 6mth old road-kill orphans at a sister Wildlife shelter, they were as cute and cuddly as other joeys. Safe enough to let my son cuddle.

Basic data:  The Tasmanian Devil is a nocturnal creature which behaves a lot like a fox during the day and hides in a den. They are not territorial but have a home range and can travel up to 16km in search of food.  They walk with a unique, clumsy gait but can move quickly using a kind of gallop when needed. Young Devils are agile enough to climb trees. Adult males get to 12kg and sometimes the head accounts for up to one quarter of that. Hearing is excellent, eye sight is poor and they are color-blind so something standing still may not be detected. Black with a couple of white stripes across front as camouflage.   They don’t form packs to hunt although they do eat in groups sometimes.  They don’t attack humans but are very fierce when threatened and bites can crunch the bones of your hand.

Diet:  Essentially a carnivore, they find Carrion if available or they hunt live prey like possums, wallabies, reptiles etc.  Their jaws and teeth are powerful enough to deal with bones and fur as well as the meat. They provide a very useful service to the bush and farms by cleaning up carcasses and raising hygiene standards as a by-product.

Excess fat is stored in their tail, so a fat tail is a sign of a healthy animal.

Life cycles:  Autumn is breeding season (March) and multiple young are born three weeks later. The correct term for pouch young is Joey but these are often called imps. The mother has a backward opening pouch with 4 teats but generally only two or three of the Joeys survive.  They begin to venture out at 16 weeks of age and are sometimes left in the den while mum goes out to get food. She weans them at six months and by eight months (December) they are living independently. They start breeding at two years of age and live for 5 year in the wild. This short life span is a concern for their long-term survival.

Status:  Endangered.  In 2008, The Tasmanian devil’s status was formally upgraded to ‘endangered’ under Tasmania’s Threatened Species Protection Act 1995. The Australian Federal Government included the Tasmanian devil under the Commonwealth’s “Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999” so they are wholly protected.  The government also funded an initiative called “Save the Tassie Devil” which is desperately seeking a cure.

Checkout this website and see footage of them feeding and hear what they sound like.  http://www.tassiedevil.com.au/tasdevil.nsf

Many things have contributed to a reduction in numbers for this species – persecution by farmers, loss of habitat, road-kill, competition with foxes, quolls etc. By far the biggest impact comes from a recent form of cancer. Devil facial Tumour Disease has spread so quickly that the 90% of adults have disappeared from high-density areas. The disease is spread by contact during mating and fighting.

This is a true little Aussie battler fighting extinction and I hope we save a healthy population so they can return to their job of cleaning up the bush and reducing the numbers of feral dogs, cats, foxes decimating other wildlife.

Please consider making a donation to the University of Tasmania initiative to save the Tassie Devil from extinction.  There’s a donation button on the website with more info, pics and sounds.  Thanks for reading me, commenting, subscribing or Liking me on facebook.

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Blackjack – what is this little creature?

This little furball joey was found on the ground after an extreme weather event, I’m told.  The teenager who picked him up mistook him for a Mountain brush-tail possum (Bobuck) because of his black coloring.

 Housed in a shoebox and kept near the TV, the creature curled up in one corner and refused to move. He trembled a lot. He was offered milk, fruit, flowers and vegetables, all of which ‘Blackjack’ rejected.  The teenager force-fed him some warm milk which poured straight into his lungs and out his nose – he also suffered violent bouts of diarrhea.  By day 3, he seemed to be near death, the guilt-ridden teenager called wildlife rescue for advice.   

One look and I knew Blackjack was not a brush-tail possum at all, although he does belong in that general family.  The clue was in the gliding membrane which stretches from elbow to ankles and spreads like a parachute when they glide from treetop to branch.  They can glide for up to a hundred meters and change direction as much as 90 degrees while doing so. On the ground they look awkward and walk like Charlie Chaplin.

 Blackjack is a Greater glider (Petauroides volans.)

These marsupials have a highly specialized diet which does not include fruit, flowers or vegetables. They only eat certain Eucalypt species and only on fresh shoots and tips of new leaves.  Diet wise they are more Koala than possum having an enlarged caecum (where bacteria breaks down the cellulose of idigestible eucalypt leaves) and eating little else.

Proper housing, diet and care will see Blackjack grow to the size of an adult cat and be returned to the wild.  Greater gliders are very private, gentle creatures who do not adapt well to change and can die from the stress of being in a cage. They rarely bite when captured/restrained and settle once covered and wrapped up.  They do best in tall, wide cages with a makeshift hollow near the top.

 Social structure:   I’m told they share a den during breeding season until the young emerge from the pouch (4months).  Adult males scent mark their territory by depositing fluid from large anal glands onto branches.

 Breeding: Females become sexually mature at two years and produce one baby a year.  The joey remains in pouch for around four months/150gr and then gets carried on her back or left in the nest while she forages. The weight of Blackjack suggested he may have lost one third of his body weight in care of the teenager – or perhaps was not found on the ground at all.  At nine months, the young leave the nest (dispersal) and find their own hollow to call home.

Habitat:  Old trees (Seventy years plus) with hollows in all sorts of forests except rainforests. 

Predation:  Powerful owls share the same environment with Greater gliders, their favorite snack.

Blackjack was reurned to the location where he was originally ‘found’ some six months after coming into my care.  The teenager said he and his friends had been hanging in the area for several days but had seen no sign of a dead mother.  Either Blackjack was thrown from her pouch, perhaps after an owl grabbed the mother, or Blackjack had lost a third of his bodyweight before he came into my care. 

No other reason for that joey to be out of a pouch at the 100grams he came to me weighing. 

Understandably, upon release, Blackjack took off and climbed to the top of the nearest tree before gliding across to another in the distance behind where our torch light couldn’t expose him. 

That’s it for this post, as always I love to see comments and subscriptions, but if thats not your thing, just ‘like’ my page so you can follow that way.  Here’s the link: http://www.facebook.com/VickiLee.AuthorFOLLOWERS?sk=wall 

Vicki Lee

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Happy-dancing Emu chicks

Hello everyone and thank you for your kindness and support when I went live last week.

First up, promise this will be a shorter post since the some of you are still trying to get through my first attempt.

An emu graces the Australian Coat-of-Arms for the same reason as the Kangaroo – (they can’t go backwards) so it’s only fair they get their own post.  I’m making this post more like the training notes I give new foster-carers operating under licence and direction.  Also, since some of you who wanted to follow me had problems finding my LIKE page on facebook so try this:  http://www.facebook.com/VickiLee.AuthorFOLLOWERS?sk=wall

So let’s start with some photos,  as requested.  First up a predator-proof shed to sleep in overnight.  

Emu Diet

These nomads feed on grains, grass, flowers, fruit, soft shoots as well as insects, mice, grubs and even other animal dung. Farmers often don’t like them but the fact is they help with locust plagues and eat flowers off weeds which affectively stop noxious weeds from seeding and then spreading. 

Photo 2 is Outdoor time – once they settled in, the happy-dancing began each morning when they were let outside. 

Mating rituals

Once a pair of emus partner up, they mate every day for about a month. Every three or so days, the female lays one 500gr dark greeny/blue egg. After the seventh egg, the male becomes broody and sits on the eggs.  For the next eight weeks he won’t eat, drink or even take a toilet break. He’ll lose up to a third of his body weight as he uses up accumulated fat, but he won’t budge.  His partner will go about freely and mate with other males, sometimes adding to the original nest, other times, she may have three males sitting. The male will even adopt a stray chick if it’s around the same age as his own and needs no special attention which takes away from his primary care of his own brood. He will protect his brood, teach them what’s safe to eat and play chasing games to help them build speed to avoid predators.

Couldn’t load a one minute video here,  so put it on Youtube: Take a look – I called the first video – The Call because it reminded me of how some authors celebrate getting the call from an agent/editor. I’m sure this is where the term doing a happy dance originated. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQpRcKDA_7g

Personality

Curiosity defines these flightless birds and they will investigate anything unusual they come across.  In older times, aborigines used this trait to trap them. One man might  kick his legs in the air for example, and the others would jump the emu which came to investigate up close.  Sometimes you see people with one arm held straight up in the air and making a ducks beak with their fingers to make themselves seem taller (to discourage the emu investigation) They eat a lot and grow fast. 

 

Wildlife rescued file notes: 

We got a call to go help five emu chicks orphaned when a redneck shot their father for a bit of sport. What can I say? These men must have had mothers. These men vote. Some women will see them as a good breeding partner. What I’d say to all sportsman shooters is that they should go to Iraq and shoot at things which shoot back. That’s my idea of true sportsmanship, if you’re that way inclined.

The chicks were the size of an average chicken on arrival and grew from about a kilo each on arrival to 15-18kg ten weeks later. We released them at about 30-35kg each some six months later.  On a nice property with a creek running through it and a huge National park.  They needed to be moved in a horse trailer and you can see the size of one although its a bit dark in there.

They all refused to come out so we hung around collecting seed while they checked it out for a few hours before leaving them. Friends on the property told us the emus opted to cruise the edge of the highway – under the power lines (where bird droppings sprout) rather than go deeper into the National Park. 

That’s my under-800-words post, folks.

As always I’m happy to respond to comments/questions and if you hate commenting, please hit the like button above and let me know you’re enjoying my posts without having to make a comment.

Until next post, take care and be well.

Vicki Lee

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Hello everyone and a warm welcome to my very first blog.

Ransom- I mean Random Notes, best describes my plans for blog. I’ll aim for a monthly post where possible but I’ve named the blog random for good reason. I’m an Australian author writing adventurous Romantic Suspense stories set in the Australian bush near my rural property in East Gippsland, Victoria. Four large National Parks cluster at the NSW end of this shire and seven rivers run into either our huge lake system, or straight out to sea. This “Naturally magic” area is situated at the eastern end of the famous Ninety-Mile Beach and extends some 350km to the NSW border. Melbourne city is about the same distance in the opposite direction. Head inland 150kms or so and you’re in the snow fields. So, the best of all worlds is in easy commuting distance. Sorry to sound like a travel advert, but this is the world I set my books in. It used to be a favorite holiday place then we decided to live here.

The topics for the posts will respond to reader interest – at the moment, most people want to hear stories about my Wildlife Rescue/Shelter patients. In due course, that will expand to discuss my books, I hope.

First up, you need to know all wildlife is protected by law. This means it is illegal to have wildlife in your possession without a license. People who rescue an injured creature on a roadside and wish to look after it need to get a registered shelter operator to act as mentor. This ensures you have the essentials covered for that species and some husbandry skills. If you happen to come across injured wildlife and are competent to handle the species, by all means go ahead and do a Rescue ie bundle off to vet or shelter asap.

If the road is not safe or you are not confident to handle/transport the creature, simply phone in and give directions to the location. Dial directory assistance and ask for a Wildlife rescue organization and they’ll connect you.

Be warned cute they may be, but they will scratch, bite and struggle to escape you. Basic care for injured wildlife involves placing them in a quiet, warm and dark environment. Don’t worry about feeding them. During stress, shock of capture and injury the last thing we think of is food.  Worry about hydration if they end up in your care for more than two hours. Most importantly don’t fall in love and hide it away for fear it will be taken away. I’ve had herbivores euthanized because someone reared it on pet meat or forced a lactose intolerant species to drink cow’s milk or baby formula for a week. All marsupials (pouch baby mums) are lactose intolerant.

More often than not, Shelter operators like me will assist with correct food, equipment and basic training – ie you operate under our license but keep wildlife in your own home. Be warned – it’s an expensive volunteer task and requires true commitment. Not-yet-furred/feathered babies need 3hr feeds around the clock for a few weeks. They bond, so an orphan baby wombat will need to stay with his human mum for around two years. If a single feed is skipped or hygiene is sub standard you’ll kill the baby. Some can’t thermo-regulate, so if they get too hot (or cold) for one hour it dramatically reduces their chance for survival. There is a link between over-heating and permanent blindness, for example and renal failure from not being warm enough. Sudden increases or drops in body temperature need to be avoided.

Do not assume a lively creature is doing anything other than trying to escape your care. To a wild creature, your care is as foreign to him as abduction by aliens is to us. Do not mistake a quiet animal for a happy one. Shock and terror keep them quiet. They hide pain as a rule even in the wild. Capture myopathy (stress of being captured/restrained) kills many kangaroo joeys. One day they’re fine, the next dead. We love cuddling and patting wildlife but keep in mind that they’d prefer we treated them more like their parents do in the wild.  At home today, I have a few different creatures  in care, but I’m dedicating this post to my favorite animals –  Kangaroos.

When white settlers first tried to obtain the name of this animal from the local Aboriginal people, the response sounded like Kangaroo and it stuck. By the time it was explained that kangaroo translated to “I don’t understand” the animal was on the Australian coat of arms, along with the emu. They were chosen because both travels forward at great speeds but neither can go backwards.  Isn’t that still a great motivator for us, today?

The Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus) is born the size of a cherry and climbs into its mother’s pouch, unaided, day one. I love that built-in persistence. Once inside, it latches onto a teat and settles in for a few months. Female kangaroos can be pregnant every day of the year except for the day they give birth. They can arrest the development of an embryo until the older joey is ready to leave the pouch. She can vary the milk formula to suit the needs of the babies and can produce two different formulas from two teats at the same time. Pretty impressive.

At around four months of age, a pouch baby will weigh around 500gr, have a 137mm tail and 78mm foot. They’re all legs and tail!  From about eight months (2.5kg) it comes out of pouch to browse and exercise for brief periods. It dives back in at any sign of danger.  It becomes “fully emerged” at ten-twelve months (5kg) and sleeps outside the pouch but snuggled against mum. By now he has a 500mm tail and 240mm foot but won’t leave mum until eighteen months old.

I have two orphaned, kangaroo joeys in my care at the moment. There’s a dedicated room and I am the only person who handles (because they’re used to one mum.) ‘Scab’ came in as a 1kg furless Joey who had bounced off bitumen after his mum collided with a car. Mum died.  Scratches marred his little pink-skinned body and he had a big scab on his forehead.  Joeys live in hanging pouches and sleep between feeds so I aim for minimal disturbance. Sponge baths are done inside the pouch and then a quick shift to a pre-warmed, clean pouch.

‘Felix’ came in three weeks ago as a 1.8 kg Joey with a nice velvety coat, but frozen in shock. He settled in quickly, taking his cue from Scab. This happens a lot, second patients are more relaxed because the resident animal is already relaxed with human which makes the new animal feel safer. Seeing the two together brought my attention to Scab’s reluctance to stand or stretch as much as the smaller joey during mat time. I took a break from rearing Kangaroos in mobs when my widowed, wheelchair-bound mum moved in. A stroke left her right-side paralyzed so she needed daily help. Anyway, I passed on all creatures which needed more time/energy than I could spare. I’d do the rescue only and pass on the creature. I really missed sitting on the lawn, reading a book on a blanket while they munched on grass around me. Another shelter couldn’t find an emergency baby-sitter so I agreed to help but warned she may not get her new kangaroo back after a week’s bonding.  LOL She didn’t.

I generally don’t release from my own back yard although I have a free range mob which browses the back paddocks. We’re too close to a 100km / hr highway for that. Instead at around 6kg, they go live on the back porch of a friend’s place located further from the highway.  Some return if hungry (drought years) or have a baby to show off.  There’s a whole etiquette thing with joining wild mobs, the dominant male can kill young bucks who don’t respect his authority. Of course those raised by humans are at a disadvantage so the earlier the hand reared ones can mix with the wild ones the better. Dominant males don’t consider juveniles a threat and therefore are less likely to smack them hard enough to hurt. Of course, young females are never chased off…

Scab and Felix will go there early spring when there’s lots of fresh food around, along with any others who join this little mob. Some creatures are solitary and can be raised alone, but Kangaroos need to be raised and released as a group. So if you take one, the next three or four are yours too. They are a joy and I still consider it a privilege to be able to be this close to them but it can be a heartbreaking experience at times. Probably close to half the injured creatures either die of their injuries or need to be euthanized because they don’t make a full recovery.

Right now, I need to deal with the fact that ‘Scab’ may be euthanized in the next couple of weeks if his ‘lame’ leg doesn’t improve. These animals reach speeds of 50km/hr and can jump over 2.5m fences. The problem is mainly the fact they need two ‘even’ legs to hop. They store elastic strain energy in the tendons of their hind legs which provides the spring needed to hop. Felix can’t stand for long, but he is more evenly balanced. Scab has one leg giving way beneath him. There’s muscle there, he has resistance but he can’t stand evenly even when supported. I’m wondering if we missed some kind of spinal injury or a hairline fracture by leaving him alone to settle that first week. I decided to go into town and consult with the vet again.

Unfortunately he confirms my suspicions. One leg is weaker. Euthanasia is mentioned. My license requires I not release unfit animals into wild populations. I understand and agree that we need to protect the health of the others. I also agree a wild animal deserves a certain quality of life. Unfit animals are easier prey and attract predators. With a life span of twenty years, it’s not viable to cage Scab and take him out for an evening browse. Kangaroos are most active at dawn and dusk (crepuscular) which is not a convenient time to be out with a disabled, 8ft tall, 95kg kangaroo each day while he browse for hours nibbling grass and sniffing out fungi.

Option two involves more human intervention – this seems fair given human intervention caused his injury and killed his mum. Some massage and physiotherapy after each feed may result in enough improvement to stay his execution, so I’ve suggested I try that. My vet will review and pull rank if there’s no hope of a good recovery. At that point I’ll have to suck it up and do what needs doing, but until then, this little boy is in training as if his life depended on it.

Sometimes magic just happens with these babies. I’m not a qualified animal doctor, I’m just a volunteer but I have seen healing occur against the odds. Fully paralyzed adult kangaroos (trapped in electric fencing) have sat there for weeks and then one day, they get up and it’s like the brain has rewired itself.  Okay, mostly they don’t recover paralysis. But scab is not paralyzed, he has feeling and uses that leg to get into his pouch quickly when he’s spooked.

No easy answers but that seemed like the best decision while waiting for the X-ray report to come back. I’ll leave this here for now.

Happy to take questions and comments but I’m on rural dial up and may take a day to reply.

As this is my first attempt at blogging I’m asking for people to subscribe using the link in the sidebar.  I have photos current wildlife in care on my Facebook page, so click the Like button to let me know you are interested in hearing and seeing more from me.

Next time I’ll post about a batch of emu chicks we raised after “Rednecks” shot their parents for fun. Plus Scab’s progress (he’s in the photo with me) with our muscle-building efforts.

Until then, be well,

Vicki Lee.

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