Barn Owls,Rats and Poison – Brenda

Still on poisons, I wonder how many of us are unknowingly also guilty of causing death. Take owls for instance, at some time in their life most will eat rats and mice. Rats and mice eat the baits we put out for them and are in turn taken by owls.
A study in England some years ago found that the number of barn owls with anti-coagulant rodenticides in their livers increased from 5% in 1983-84 to 36% in 1995-96. These figures were based on over 700 barn owl carcasses found dead during these periods. About half the owls were taken from the road and it is assumed were killed by vehicles, it is also thought that it is possible some of them had been weakened by the poison in their system and this had contributed to their becoming road victims. Only 5% of the owls had actually been killed by the rodenticides but it is felt that the mortality is much higher as the poisoned birds become lethargic and creep away and die in places where they are not likely to be found.
Owls ingesting poison is not new but as rats and mice are becoming more and more resistant to the anti-coagulant poisons, they consume much more before dying. As the rats become weaker they are more easily caught by the owls. The major threat now is that in the long term the anti-coagulant poisons will impact more on owls than on rats and mice. As their resistance to poisons increase and threat from the owls decrease, rats would seem to have a very bright future indeed.
Two hundred years ago the barn owl was the most common owl in Britain, now it is amongst the rarest. Farmers once appreciated their good work in controlling mice and rats and to help protect it built special owl holes in their barns so the owls had access to safe breeding and roosting sites; in the second half of the 19th century the tables turned on these beautiful birds and stuffed owls became popular as did shooting and trapping as it was thought that game was being killed by the birds. By the 1930’s concern as to the decline in numbers began and, in a first for a British breeding bird, a census was organised which concluded that there were about 12,000 breeding pairs of barn owls. Survey results announced in January 1999 showed that only about 1000 pairs remained in Britain. If anyone has updates on this it would be appreciated if you could forward the information to me.


Currently we are receiving echidnas in for care regularly, at least one every fortnight, all are road accident victims and, luckily, all have survived which, for these victims is good as most often the injuries are so severe they have to be euthanised. Thanks must go to my carer who has taken on the last 3, one was huge weighing in at close to 7kg, no way was it going to fit into the cage I had taken to bring it home in, we had to borrow a much larger one from the clinic and arrange other transport as the friend I had gone with to collect it couldn’t fit the large cage in her car. It has been our experience that many echidnas that have been judged as not badly injured – mostly with some minor beak or other visible damage – have massive internal damage even though externally nothing is visible. It is a good idea to keep any echidna that arrives for care with any signs of having been hit or run over by a car for several days to see if it deteriorates. The beaut echidna picture was sent in by Brenda Argus.

Bats out of Hell – Myree

In the middle of January this year [2014] there was a heat wave which, as well as stressing our human population, many species of animals were stressed as well. It was the first time in Bendigo since the Grey-Headed Flying-foxes [GHFF] first settled in the fernery at Rosalind Park that we were able to observe how they fared. It is believed that about 85 GHFF’s died during the heat stress, which is approximately 10% of those present in the Bendigo colony at the time. Almost all these were juveniles. It is assumed that in being very young they had not yet developed the ability to cope with excessive heat. Observations suggest that they start fanning their wings and panting when temperatures get to the mid 30’s, but this is a normal cooling mechanism and doesn’t necessarily suggest that they are distressed. The cumulative stress of several consecutive days of extreme heat seems to have been the critical factor in the Bendigo colony – Monday was 39C, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were 43C and Friday was 40C. Most deaths occurred on the Wednesday and Thursday. Eleven GHFF’s were taken to wildlife shelters, a further 4 died at the triage area and another 4 were released on the day of capture following rehydration therapy.

A number of dedicated WRIN members attended the area at different times over the heat wave in an effort to help the DEPI team which had set up the triage area at the entrance to the fernery. The DEPI team, headed by Karly Loughnane and Brady Childs was very professional and caring providing shelter, drinks and food to volunteers as well as advising on safety measures to follow and what appropriate clothing should be worn to avoid any scratches from the flying foxes, they also stressed the importance of the volunteers being immunised against the Lyssa virus. The team took extensive notes and statistics. Being the first time a heat event like this had been experienced a lot was learnt and will help to clarify how processes for future events will have to be managed.
On a personal note, I took home 5 young GHFF’s and they were kept in care for about 6 weeks until they were considered strong enough to be released back into the Rosalind Park fernery with the rest of their group. Also by then the weather was a lot cooler. Their diet consisted of apples, grapes, watermelon and cantaloupe. As I had no previous experience with caring for GHFF’s before, I was often on the phone to Bev Brown in Melbourne for advice. Bev is a well respected and knowledgeable carer of GHFF’s and was very helpful to me. On the hot days it was a full time job spraying the flying foxes with cool water to prevent further stress. They are wonderful little characters and I loved every minute of caring for them as well as learning a lot about them.

Upcoming Events

Sunday January 22nd 2017

WRIN information display at Bunnings Kangaroo Flat from 10am to 4pm.

Featuring WRIN reptile expert Chris Page from 10am – 12pm from TZR Reptiles and Wildlife.

A great opportunity to get up close and personal with these unique native creatures,


Monday January 23rd 2017

WRIN committee meeting 730pm Ruth St Golden Square

Saturday February 4th 2017

General Meeting (All welcome) 1230pm

Golden Square Senior Citizens Club, Old High Street, Golden Square

Featuring Guest Speaker Pam Whiteley 130pm

Wildlife Health Surveillance Victoria Coordinator Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences the University of Melbourne

Pam will discuss her studies in wildlife health and diseases and the work she does in health surveillance of wildlife populations recording and studying disease outbreaks including Beak and Feather in birds and Chronic Phlaris Toxicity in kangaroo populations.

Afternoon tea will be provided

 Monday 27th of March 2017

Committee meeting 730pm Ruth St Golden Square

Saturday 1st of April 2017

General Meeting (All welcome)  1230pm

Golden Square Senior Citizens Club, Old High Street, Golden Square

Speaker to be announced

Sunday the 23th of April 2017

WRIN 20th Anniversary Reunion

Marong Family Hotel 1pm

Saturday 3rd of June 2017

General Meeting (All welcome) 1230pm

Golden Square Senior Citizens Club, Old High Street, Golden Square

Featuring Guest Speaker Jenny Steele at 130pm

Topic – Bush Stone-Curlew Project

Why was the “Bush Stone- curlew Project” started? As wildlife rescuers you probably have not come accross these birds, as they are endangered in this region. The aim of this project is to increase the number of curlews in the landscape by a captive breeding program, as well as habitat enhancement in the surrounding forest. Jenny Steele, as a carer of seven curlews, will talk about the history of the project, the day to day care of the birds and what has been achieved so far.

Monday the 31st of July

Committee meeting 730pm Ruth St Golden Square

Saturday the 5th of August

Annual General Meeting (All welcome)  1230pm

Golden Square Senior Citizens Club, Old High Street, Golden Square

No Speaker


WHAT DOES ‘ORGANIC’ REALLY MEAN? [skin care and hair products]

Ever wondered what is actually in your skin and hair products? How can you know if there are any synthetic detergents, emulsifiers, artificial colours or fragrances, petroleum by-products, tar derivatives, GMO ingredients, and if it has really been tested on animals or not? How can you be sure if ‘organic’ really means grown and cultivated without the use of chemicals?
Most cosmetic companies using the term ‘organic’ on their label are using the chemistry definition of organic – meaning a compound that contains carbon. Carbon is found in anythings that has ever lived. So by using this definition of organic, we could say that a toxic petrochemical preservative called methyl paraben is ‘organic’ because it was formed by leaves that rotted over thousands of years to become oil, which was used to make this chemical preservative.
If ingredients are listed in brackets or indicate they are derivatives of a natural ingredient [eg coconut oil], this means they are the synthetic version, produced using a chemical process. Often, so called natural products have long lists of chemical names or compound ingredients. Eg, those with the letters ‘eth’ [eg Sodium Laureth Sulfate or Dimethicone], undergo a manufacturing process creating dangerous levels of ethylene oxide. Europe has actually outlawed the use of some of these ingredients for many years.
Note the order of ingredients, they should be listed in descending quantity order. The top third generally constitute 99.95% . The base of most skin care products and cosmetics have been refined, deodorised and bleached. Depending on how they are processed or diluted, any so called natural or organic added ingredients either have little benefit or are lost amongst the other synthetic ingredients and chemicals.
For organically processed foods and personal care products, only minimal processing is permitted, with a limited number of non-agricultural but natural or traditional ingredients allowed. Hence no synthetic chemicals, unnatural dyes, colouring, flavourings or other additives are permitted.
‘Certified organic’ is the way for consumers to be assured of the authenticity and integrity of ‘organic’ and ‘natural claims. Looking for the logo of the Australian Certified Organic [independent third party] certifying body on their label is the only way to guarantee that the product has undergone stringent quality standards and traceability requirements of a certified product.


Around the world kangaroos are one of Australia’s best known and loved animals. In Australia they are also one of the most persecuted and sometimes suffer horrific cruel deaths at the hands of humans.
Kangaroos are incredibly beautiful creatures. In certain areas along the length of the Murray river you may see the Red Kangaroo [northern-most areas], Western Grey Kangaroo [northern-most areas but further east than the reds] and Eastern Grey Kangaroos along most of the Murray but few, even none, in the areas the other two species may be found.
The eastern grey kangaroo is the most common macropod in Victoria. At present, in places, you may see quite a number together. The comment is sometimes made that kangaroos breed like flies [or rabbits] when weather conditions are good, this is incorrect, they have a very structured life. They are able to delay birth of young if weather conditions are not suitable. They may dispose of pouch young when weather conditions mean survival is unlikely.
We are seeing bigger mobs now because food and water have become almost impossible to find in most areas and animals are congregating where there is something to eat and drink. This is partly due to the extremely dry weather over the past few years but also of great concern in many areas is the destruction and loss of habitat for all our wildlife species, including the very visible kangaroos, who are being pushed together into smaller and smaller areas as their home ranges are being built on or altered in other ways.
Eastern grey kangaroos give birth to ONE baby each year. Each baby spends between 10 and 11 months in the pouch. When an Eastern Grey joey is born it will be 4 – 6 months before the female mates again. When successful mating has taken place the fertilised egg will develop to the blastocyst stage then become dormant until the current joey vacates the pouch. Just before permanent pouch emergence, the blastocyst that has been dormant since a short time after the successful mating will begin to develop and will be born about one month after joey number one has permanently vacated the pouch.
Red Kangaroos mate within a few days of giving birth to a joey with the egg developing to the blastocyst stage before becoming dormant until the joey in the pouch is permanently out. Pouch life for the Red Kangaroo is a little shorter than for the grey at around 9 months. Western Grey Kangaroos do not mate again until the pouch joey has permanently vacated the pouch; their breeding time is spring and early summer.
During severe weather conditions females may stop breeding, mortality rate for joeys may exceed 40%, males are usually lost first then oldest and youngest. Females may also dispose of pouch young, there is some evidence that male pouch young – up to about a fortnight old – will be disposed of first.
Eastern greys’ are in season for 46 days although there is only a very short time when actual mating takes place, the tiny joey is born about 35 days after mating, the baby looks like a pink baked bean with front legs which it uses to climb up to and into the pouch where it attaches itself to a nipple, the nipple swells permanently attaching the baby. It takes about 3 minutes from the time the baby is born to the time it finds its way into the pouch. If it falls nothing can be done and it will quickly die. Weight is around three quarters of a gram. At around five to five and a half months the eyes will be open, it may be up to a month after this before you will see the joeys head beginning to pop out of the pouch for brief periods but it is not rare for the non-furred joey to be seen with its head out of the pouch earlier than this. First time out of the pouch is usually – but not always – around 7months and lasts a very short time.

An eastern grey joey once it has permanently left the pouch will continue to suckle from mum until it is up to 18 months old, at the same time the new pouch baby will have attached itself to one of the remaining 3 teats and will suckle a different type of milk to its older sibling. Amazing!
Kangaroos are truly amazing creatures! We all need to remember that we have moved into the kangaroos’ habitat, they haven’t moved into ours. It is up to us to care for all our unique wildlife species. Humans are only one of the many species on earth, surely we should be using our intelligence to protect and preserve ALL living things not only ourselves


the other day I made the mistake of NOT finding your website about how to deal with nestlings that have fallen/flown out of their nest. I only read up on one website [I now think based in America], which insisted I put the bird back in the tree. There was no mention of the fact that most nestlings begin the first few days out of the nest foraging for food, with their parents out of sight but present to feed occasionally.
As a result of what can only be described as misguided but with the best intentions, this healthy little bird ended up dying in what I now realise was an entirely inappropriate excuse for a nest. I am still recovering from the horror of my mistake and would like to forewarn others so that they don’t do the same. If you know of a website where the public can easily access stories like mine, or if you have a section in your website where a posting about this would be appropriate, please do advise me. Many thanks


Well over 20 years ago I received a 3.7kg eastern grey joey from a family who had presented us with a few animals over the years. From things that were and were not said the assumption was made that this little males mum had been shot by a member of the family. The joey was, not unexpectedly, quite stressed, unkempt in appearance, thin and also not particularly robust – all symptoms of poor care. Christened Benji, he settled quite well but not too long after arrival at the first feed of the day he stood for his bottle but rather than his usual upright position, assumed a more hunched posture and instead of eagerly suckling as he normally did, played and fiddled with the teat. After a few minutes I gave up and went to feed others. At this stage his poo was normal in appearance and smell. A little later his hunched stance changed a little to a more exaggerated head down into belly stance and it was clear he was in a lot of pain. The poo was collected and promptly at 8.30am I was on the steps of my vet clinic waiting for the doors to open, poo in one hand, joey in the other. I think it’s coccidiosis I said to the vet who agreed. The poo was checked and declared okay, no oocysts. Nothing specific could be found with Benji who obligingly passed more beautifully formed poo balls, also declared fine. Off home we went where he was placed into a pen with his mate [to lessen stress]. He would not take bottles at all during the day but did lap a little water and was given fluids SC. Benji was checked regularly until after midnight, nothing had changed, poo was still fine but the hunching was still the same with no desire to suckle.
First thing the following morning – 5.30am – I went out to check him, still about 10 feet from the hutch I could see he was now laying down with his mate standing close by. In the moonlight it was easy to see the now liquid poo glistening in the bright moonlight, it was also easy to see the large amounts of dark blood. There was no doubt in my mind this was coccidiosis. The joey was wrapped in blankets, taken inside and had more fluids given SC. Once more at 8.30am there I was waiting on the doorstep of the clinic. There was little doubt he would die but we decided to place him on a drip for a final chance and I would stay with
him, less than 2 hours later he was dead. A necropsy was done, it looked as if his gut had rotted. Definitely coccidiosis. In all the years since and with all the joeys that have arrived coming from bad to incredibly bad care, I have never had another case of coccidiosis and am very frustrated whenever a case of diarrhoea is instantly diagnosed, whether from a phone call or personal contact as coccidiosis, as often there is a very simple explanation, stress for one or simply being given too much formula. Diagnosing every case of diarrhoea as coccidiosis can cause a huge amount of stress to carers, particularly if they are still in the learning phase of caring for macropods. Whereas this condition needs to be always in the mind, it shouldn’t be considered the only problem, take a little time to think and get some good advice. Best advice to carers is to always keep everything clean, always keep the yards clean which means constantly picking up the poo, particularly at the time of year when the ground is warm but wet which is the condition that will cause coccidia to thrive in/on the ground. Don’t put new arrivals, particularly if they have diarrhoea, close to other pouch animals or in a pen with others. Keeping your animals stress free is not just a good idea, it is a vital part of the caring process. Carers need to remember, checking poo when coccidiosis is suspected, although not necessarily a bad idea, can send you heading in the wrong direction about problems, as with Benji, his poo did not contain coccidia oocysts even though he was clearly in the last stages. Having the poo of healthy joeys checked can show the oocysts as they are carried naturally by kangaroos as well as other species, they are shed regularly throughout the life of the animal so it is inevitable they will sometimes show under microscopic examination. These days there is a treatment that can be used if coccidiosis is strongly suspected and in some instances it is probably a good idea to begin a treatment regime which includes fluids and multiple medications over a period of time but take care, observe all symptoms and remember the internal damage caused by coccidiosis is going on well before any visible symptoms are seen.
Almost 12 months to the day after Benji’s death, and with the same weather conditions prevailing, another of my joeys began to refuse his bottles in exactly the same manner; he was approximately the same age as Benji had been. This time I wasn’t prepared to wait and see what developed but rang my vet at home – of course it was after hours. Isn’t it always? I decided not to take Rudder [named because of the splint he wore on his tail for a month after arrival] in for an examination as he was exhibiting perfectly normal behaviour except for playing with his bottles. Rudder was standing straight and tall, no signs of hunching which is one of the most visible signs of coccidiosis, but it is a very ‘different’ stance to that of an animal hunching against the cold or heavy rain, this hunching has the animal standing with its head well down and seems to be pulling its belly inwards through to its spine, the arms and hands are usually also pulled well into the belly area.
Droppings were also normal. My vet suggested administering a combination of 2 medications which would cover a number of internal problems – I was okay with that as I knew what both medications were used for. The medications were to be administered for 10 days, unless there was noticeable deterioration. If coccidiosis was the problem [and we thought it could be] we considered these would be the best bets even though we were both more than a little sceptical of success. For a number of years now there has been a medication regime given to kangaroos suspected of having coccidiosis, it may work if the animal is in the very early stages but if it has been going on for some time then success is unlikely as the damage begins well before symptoms become really visible.
After only 24hrs Rudder began to drink almost all of his daily milk ration only occasionally not finishing one feed but at the end of the 10 days he was obviously still not particularly well. In spite of eating and drinking his appearance had become unkempt and tatty. I decided to wait a day or two to see if anything happened and happen it did. Before I knew it, Rudder’s ankles had swollen to twice their normal size, this was now something visible and a dash was made for the surgery after a quick phone call advising my vet of our intentions. By the time we
arrived he had already made a tentative diagnosis of heart problems and it took only seconds for him to listen and declare there was a strong heart murmur, he explained to me that severity of heart murmurs are rated 1 to 5 and he considered Rudder to be at least a 3. Blood was taken for testing and a new course of antibiotics started, this time good old Amoxycillin. How I cursed myself for not taking him in for an examination right at the start, I had always done it before, why had I not done it this time? The murmur would likely have been picked up immediately. Now the wait for results of the blood tests. In the following 48 hours the improvement was tremendous and we had high hopes that it was only an infection of the heart valve and not a defect beginning to develop as Rudder grew.
Rudder’s recovery was rapid, he was on Amoxycillin for a full month although within a week he looked 100% better and before 3 weeks was up was back to standing straight and tall. He was once again his beautiful well groomed, gentle, loving self.
It was a lesson I’ve never forgotten and whenever I’m doing workshops or receive calls asking for help it’s strongly recommended that the animal is looked at, I’m more than happy to have a look or get to a good vet, one familiar with wildlife. If you are not comfortable with the vet diagnosis, then try another, make some calls and ask questions. Whatever you do don’t wait, it’s not good enough that it may be more convenient in 2 or 3 days so you will do something then, it isn’t worth the risk. By the time you’re seeing very visible symptoms the joey will already have been ill for several days and in some cases much longer as was the case with Benji who was obviously well infected when he arrived although there were no symptoms and his behaviour was perfectly normal.
Though many years have passed I have never forgotten that I could have caused the unnecessary death of a joey in my care, I certainly caused more suffering than is ever acceptable.


Helan spent quite a number of years in WA and learnt a lot about the WA inhabitants, human and animal.
For some reason many wildlife species have been given different names in WA. Can you guess the more common name of the following :
The BOODIE [an island survivor] is the only macropod to inhabit burrows on a regular basis. Many animals may share a complex warren. It is nocturnal and emerges after sunset to feed on tubers, bulbs, seeds, fruit and the green parts of edible plants. Wild populations of this species survive on Bernier, Dorre and Barrow islands. The Boodie has been reintroduced to Boodie Island. The disappearance of this common mammal from the mainland since colonial settlement may be linked to the arrival of the fox and cat. Status : Vulnerable.
The MARL [a miniature marvel] is one of the smallest of the bandicoots. This may be why it survives only on Bernier and Dorrie islands in Shark Bay where feral cats and foxes are absent. It is one of the rarest marsupials in Australia. At dusk it emerges from its nest to feed on seeds, roots, insects and other small animals. Status : Endangered.
The QUENDA [an urban refugee] prefers scrubby habitats with good ground cover. Solitary animals occupy a territory of several hectares. By day it sleeps in a grassy nest amongst dense vegetation. Active at night, it digs conical holes and uses a probing snout to search for worms and insects. Young animals are killed by cats. The Quenda finds refuge in the Perth Hills region as suitable habitat in the metropolitan area is lost through urban development. Status : Lower Risk [near threatened].

The WOYLIE survives in habitat that contains clumped grasses and low patchy scrub. Here it constructs a domed nest of grasses or shredded bark that it occupies by day. Loss of suitable habitat and predation by the fox are responsible for the dramatic decline of this mammal. This is the first species to be taken off a national list of Australia’s most endangered species through the efforts of a fauna recovery programme. Status : Lower Risk [conservation dependent].
The BILBY [Bilby is the common name used almost throughout all Australia, for this one, what is its real name] lives in colonies and is unique amongst others of its species for its ability to construct burrows. Active at night, the Bilby uses its acute hearing and sense of smell to locate insects, seeds and edible fruits. It is able to survive harsh desert conditions by deriving most of its water from food and by remaining in its burrow during the day. Stat : Vulnerable.