Wobbly Wombats

Earlier this year I had the privilege of heading off for a 10 day break to assist with animals
east of Melbourne in the rolling green hills in part of our beautiful Great Dividing Range. .
My main chore was to care for 2 dogs whilst their owners headed for Canberra to take part in
a 2 day seminar on mange in wombats, the remainder of the time would be spent assisting
with the wombats being treated for mange if and when needed. What a time I had and my
amazement at checking out wombats being treated in their own environment for mange, a
horrific problem in many areas, and meeting members of the public who were assisting still
amazes me. Here we were visiting beautiful properties – lush green, rolling hills, beautiful
houses and magnificent scenery – whose owners loved seeing the wombats around their
areas and were more than eager to assist with the programme, treating, photographing and
regularly posting the updated photos to the Mange Management team so they could monitor
the success of the treatments. The property that still has me shaking my head in wonder
was a small old weatherboard home. I was disappointed the owners were out when we
arrived to check the wombats being treated and to leave more medication. I was spotter and
saw the first wombat within seconds of pulling into the drive, mid afternoon, icy cold and
drizzling with rain. It is unusual to see wombats out during the day unless they are ill,
particularly suffering mange. I stayed in the car so as not to frighten the animal whilst the
driver headed off with the camera trying to get a photo. After a few minutes she signalled no
success as the wombat had gone into its burrow. I walked to the front of the house and was
absolutely gobsmacked to see the burrow was under the house, the entry hole under a front
window. The burrow had one of the treatment ‘flaps’ erected at the entrance.

I commented on the location and the owners who had chosen to leave the wombat where it
was and offer treatment rather than attempt to get rid of it. Anyway we walked back to the
drive and spotted a black ‘lump’ near a fence post in the next paddock, yes another wombat,
we watched for a few minutes but were unable to get close enough to give it a good check,
there didn’t appear to be any mange. Turning back and there was yet another wombat
ambling across the drive towards the house and the amazement I had experienced 10
minutes earlier was upgraded to shock when I saw the second burrow going under the
house a little more than 2 metres from the one already mentioned, this also had a treatment
flap set up. The last place we visited for the day was a beautiful property complete with
deciduous trees, ornamental lake [dam] and a long low house at the highest point of the park
like garden, these people were also treating a wombat and were thrilled she hadn’t been
seen for several days which indicates her treatment period is coming to an end as she
begins to behave as a perfectly healthy night time wombat. Her scats are regularly seen so
they know she is still visiting during the night. Those wombats are living in wombat heaven!
I saw pictures of when they were first being treated for mange and the change was amazing.
The treatment is cheap and really works, best is the animals are treated where they live and
not suffering the trauma of being captured and taken into care.

The other places that made me realise just how wonderful and caring some people are were
a huge house built on top of a hill – mansion is probably a better word – the owner came
down to tell of how his treatment programme was going. Another shock here when I noted
a burrow flap placed over a concrete drain pipe at the end of the road where wombats are
seen entering. Where the road ended natural bush began. We waited here for 2 volunteers
to arrive. We then walked from the road and part way down into a valley to check known
burrows and to refill the treatment containers. We then headed to another part of the ranges
and checked flaps erected at holes in fences on large properties sporting magnificent views
over the ranges. One of the houses was for sale for around 2 million dollars!

During my days alone I answered the phone numerous times, all except one call regarding
people wanting to report wombats with mange, or suspected of having it or wanting to offer
to assist with the programme. The one exception, coincidentally, was from a foster carer for
a shelter somewhere in that area wanting advice on what to do for a newly arrived pink
wallaby. Some coincidence I thought, my favourite macropods are wallabies.
I had a fabulous time and am planning another trip soon, my knowledge of caring for
wombats is ever increasing. To date I have only had one wombat joey for a short period of
time as it’s most important they are sent to be with others of the same age, just as we do
with macropod joeys. Some ‘mangy’ wombat pics in next edition hopefully.

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