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Wildlife road toll increases after storm as homeless, confused animals wander onto roads

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By Aleksandra Bliszczyk

Victorian animal rescuers have been flooded with calls and requests for assistance for displaced or injured wildlife after the storm that shook the state earlier this month.

Not-for-profit organisation Help for Wildlife’s rescue coordinator Sue Kirwan said calls had doubled in the week following the storm, particularly in the hardest hit areas including north central Victoria, the Yarra Valley and Gippsland.

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“The wildlife has been affected terribly,” she said.

“We’ve had more calls for cars versus wombats over the last week because they’re out and about when they shouldn’t be and where they shouldn’t be.”

Ms Kirwan, based in Doreen, is one of nearly 300 carers in Help for Wildlife’s network, and is currently looking after one of countless baby wombats orphaned after the storm, when its mother was hit by a car.

“[She’s] been hit by a car in the afternoon which is very unusual, and this is the aftermath of what you find when they’re displaced,” Ms Kirwan said.

“A lot of their burrows – the entrances slope down a bit – will get flooded out, and in areas where rivers have risen and they’ve got holes on the bank or very close to the bank, they’re displaced.

Help For Wildlife was called to a golf course last week when a confused wombat carrying babies in its pouch was found on a green. The wombat was uninjured, but said to be displaced and homeless after heavy rain.

“They have to dig another burrow and find somewhere else because that amount of water down a burrow would probably do a hell of a lot of damage.”

Ms Kirwan said they had received a large number of calls for wombat road incidents, as well as one for a wombat found on a golf course, and another stuck on a bridge.

More kangaroos have also been hit on roads in the past week as they have been out looking for somewhere to rest that’s ‘not a puddle’, Ms Kirwan said.

She said many arboreal animals, such as possums, had been found dead, and birds have been found with wing injuries.

“Whether they’ve been caught in the wind or collected by branches, we had a lot of cockatoo and corella calls,” she said.

Help for Wildlife collects orphaned or injured animals and places them into foster care before moving them to a sanctuary that prepares them to be released into the wild.

This week volunteers have also monitored animals that had inhaled water into their lungs.

If people hit an animal while driving and the animal is clearly injured, Ms Kirwan advised the driver to pull over safely and call Help for Wildlife immediately on 0477 555 611. She said if was a large animal, people needed to keep their distance.

She said to call the carers if people found animals that were injured, looking unwell or distressed on their property.

“Otherwise make sure to keep pets locked up and keep and eye on [the animal] during the day because they’ll probably wander off when it gets dark,” she said.

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