Wildlife Rescue
  • Last updated:
  • 22 Sep 2016

Council recently ran a Wildlife Rescue workshop for members of the Land for Wildlife program. Since then there has been a lot of interest and people are keen to learn what to do when coming across injured or orphaned wildlife. Here is a very brief ‘how to’ for basic wildlife rescue.

Keep a wildlife rescue basket in your car containing the following items

  • One basket with a foldable lid that can be fastened shut
  • Hot water bottle or similar (e.g. recycled plastic bottle, wine flask)
  • Pen and notebook 
  • Two towels
  • Two pillow slips
  • A couple of safety pins 
  • Scissors 
  • Disposable gloves
  • Small length of pool noodle for a bird perch
  • Safety vest
  • Contact details for wildlife rescue groups


  • Road safety is paramount. Only pull over if it is safe to do so, wear a high-vis vest and be careful not to be hit by a car while attempting a rescue.
  • Never attempt to rescue a bat – this should only be undertaken by carers who have been vaccinated against rabies.
  • Never attempt to rescue a snake – this should only be undertaken by experienced handlers.
  • Don’t attempt to climb trees to rescue koalas or other injured arboreal wildlife – call an expert.
  • Always wear disposable gloves.


Contact a wildlife rescue group for specific advice. Some local groups include:

WILVO's  5441 6200
Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital 1300 369 652
Wildcare Australia 5527 2444
Eumundi Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre 5442 8057
Bat Conservation and Rescue 0488 228 134
Sunshine Coast Koala Rescue 0423 618 740 or 0431 300 729
Twinnies Pelican and Seabird Rescue 0421 476 561

Undertake the rescue

Undertake the rescue as best you can in accordance with advice from the rescue group and get the animal to a registered carer or vet as soon as possible. Some basic advice for different species/situations is as follows:

Baby birds

Baby birds are often knocked out of nests during high winds, storms and even when learning to fly. Almost always the parents will return to caring for them once they are put back in the tree, so you usually don’t need to get them to a vet or carer. You can do this by placing a hanging basket in the tree or even fashioning a nest out of an ice-cream container (remember to pierce drainage holes in the base). You can make it a little more natural looking and comfortable by placing bracken, grass and leaves in it. N.B. Ground dwelling baby birds such as plovers and brush turkeys should be left alone.


Use a thick towel to pick up and place in a sturdy plastic container – rescued echidnas not contained properly have been known to burrow into the foam of car seats. Do not put on heat.


Leave the snakes and lace monitors for the pros. Lizards and freshwater turtles generally don’t need a heat source, just being kept in a dark quiet (and secure) space is sufficient to treat shock when getting them to the vet or wildlife carer. Freshwater turtles will benefit from a wet towel being placed above and below them in the secure container/basket.

Apart from the exceptions above, most animals need to be treated for shock. The basic rule for treating an animal for shock is keeping it warm, dark and quiet. Put warm water into a hot water bottle or similar, wrap a towel around it and place underneath the animal. If the animal needs to be transported to a vet or carer, keep it secure by padding the basket with towels to prevent it from flailing around and place a towel or sheet over the basket to keep it dark.

Adult birds  Birds that have hit windows should be supported if they are stunned – wrap a towel in a horseshoe shape and place the bird in the horseshoe with their head in the middle of the ‘U’. This keeps their airways and back supported whilst they are recovering. Injured birds should be captured with a towel and placed on the pool noodle perch in a secure basket.
Possums Injured possums should be placed in an inside-out pillow case which can be tied at the end. Be very careful of claws and teeth. Treat for shock as described above place in a secure basket.
Joeys Quite often the joeys of female marsupials (inc. possums, koalas, wallabies and kangaroos) will survive when the mother has been killed. Therefore it is important to check the pouches of marsupials for young attached at the nipple. If you find a live joey, it needs to be taken into care, however pulling the young off the nipple will cause jaw injury and even brain damage. Instead you must use scissors to cut the nipple off, then pin the nipple with a safety pin to the inside of a pillow case.

Ringtail possums will almost always have two joeys in their pouch at once. Wallabies and kangaroos will often have a joey in the pouch as well as an older joey that has become separated. In both cases it is important to make sure you have accounted for all young during the rescue.
Adult wallabies and kangaroos Unfortunately, adult kangaroos and wallabies die from stress (myopathy) when in care, so usually need to be euthanised if they are badly injured. Contact Policelink on 131 444.
Koalas In most cases it’s best to call a koala rescue group when you discover a sick or injured koala, however whenever you see a koala it’s a good idea to check that it’s free of chlamydia symptoms including dirty bottom and/or reddened, puss-filled eyes (conjunctivitis).

Helpful hints

Treat the animal as you would want to be treated – i.e. get it into care or to a vet as quickly as possible.

Record details – write down the address of the rescue location and contact details of the rescuer (if the animal is given to you buy a member of the public).

Always take wildlife brought in or ‘mouthed’ by dogs or cats to a vet or carer – even if there is no obvious sign of injury. Often there is extensive internal injuries which cannot be seen.

Always put a rescued animal in a secure basket or container, ideally one that can be locked or tied shut. A panicked, injured animal on the loose in a vehicle can be a significant safety risk when driving.

Things not to do

Do not feed or give the animal water – whilst well intended, such attempts usually result in the animal aspirating it into their lungs or getting sick from being fed the wrong food.

Do not try to sooth the animal by patting or cuddling – this will only cause the animal further stress.

Article by Danielle Crawford, Sunshine Coast Council

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