A New Experience in Rescues

On 16th June, 2012 I received a call from the WRIN emergency rescue phone with a request for me to attend an adult wombat which appeared quite ill. It had been on the side of the road for some time approximately 5.5kms south of Metcalfe. I phone member Myree and she immediately offered to assist. I had been told the wombat was quiet and the eyes looked red and sore, it also appeared to have sores on its body.

I rang Brenda for some advice regarding a knowledgeable wombat person and she had a recommendation straight away. The lady recommended is regarded as an expert in the care and handling of wombats and has cared for many over the years.

On arrival at the scene, the wombat was wedged up against a pigwire fence in heavy thistle and thick scrub. He was not happy about being disturbed let alone being netted. We were able to tie a wide belt around his midriff and with a bit of tugging we managed to achieve control of the animal and with great care slide him into a large size roo bag.

When we rang the recommended carer with a description of the animals poor state of health she recommended he be euthanised. His head and flanks were heavily riddled with scabs. One of his ears was missing and the wound bleeding. From my description she concluded that he had SARCOPTIC MANGE therefore we should take great care handling him as the disease is highly contagious. Further, she advised special care be taken when disposing of the carcass as any other animals coming into contact with it could also become infected. Options were burying it deeply, burning or obtaining a special bag from the vet and have it disposed of through him. In this case we opted to dispose of the body down a local deep mineshaft where it could not be retrieved.

Through this experience I have learned :

Sarcoptic mange is a severe infection that affects the host in several different ways. The irritation caused by the mite burrowing under the skin causes the wombat to scratch incessantly which in itself causes irreparable damage to the skin including mutilation and hair loss. From the constant scratching, skin layers are taken off and raw flesh is exposed. The blood serum seeps through the mites’ ‘tunnels’ to the exposed flesh creating wounds and scabs. Ulcers and deep lesions develop which cause secondary infection and blow fly strike.

Other visible symptoms of this disease are skin thickening and crusting over the body including the eye and ear areas causing blindness and deafness. The animal becomes too weak to search for food and malnutrition and dehydration occur. The immune system becomes depleted and the wombat looks emaciated. In advanced stages, Sarcoptic Mange also has a devastating affect on internal organs including heart, liver, lungs and reproductive organs. Respiratory problems and pneumonia can deplete the wombat further. Left without treatment the animal will die a slow and painful death.

Entire colonies of Bare-nosed Wombats [Common Wombat] are being lost to this terrible disease, however an infected wombat can completely recover if it is found and treated early enough.

Two points I have learned from the exercise are :

1. Do not underestimate the weight and strength of a wombat.

2. Take great care when handling a wombat with Sarcoptic Mange and in the disposal of the carcass.

John

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