Rescue work can be confronting at first and not for everyone, but once you’ve done it once it gets easier every time.
Being prepared helps, even if you carry only the bare essentials with you in a small bag in your car.
WHY is it so important? Every time you drive past an animal lying next to the road, there could be a little one in the pouch..waiting to be rescued.
The alternative of not being rescued is extreme. The animal that was hit may not be dead but incapacitated so would be exposed to the elements, ants, foxes, more cars and a prolonged death.
The little one will slowly die from dehydration, starvation if birds, foxes or ants don’t get to it first. If not rescuing at the very least stop and check and call for help.
Most important during every rescue mission is safety. Animals don’t get hit at convenient safe crossings. It will mostly be in the dark, on a rural road with no shoulder or lights, or on a busy road with lots of traffic. Pull over safely and wear your high-vis for your own safety.
Your first action will be to move the wombat off the road. If the wombat is lying on their stomach, turn them over and pull them off the road on their back. This is to ensure that should there be a pinkie or joey in the pouch, you don’t injure it in the process.
Once you and the wombat are safely off the road, check whether the wombat is dead or alive. If alive you would need to call for help to have the wombat euthanised if the injuries are severe. Being hit by a car in most cases cause head trauma, broken back, broken ribs and broken limbs. If they are not able to move it means a broken back or pelvis in most cases.
If the wombat is dead check for a pouch and for a pinkie (unfurred) or joey (furred) in the pouch. If it’s a male, you will see heart-shaped testicles. If it’s a female, you will see a small pouch roughly where you would expect a navel.
Please note this is a full rescue kit but everyone has slightly different items. You don’t need to carry all of this with you.
Heat, silence and darkness…that is all they need short-term
- Disposable gloves
- Heat pack (be careful not to burn the little one and only use if you can’t use your body heat)
- Paw paw ointment (helps for wounds and removal of ants)
- Bottles, teats and marsupial formula (only for experienced carers. Otherwise don’t feed them at all)
Gently check inside the pouch and use your fingers to feel for a pinkie. If it’s a bigger joey you would need to cut the pouch – VERY IMPORTANT – make sure that mum is not alive. Please don’t cut the pouch if you are unsure. To check touch the eyes. If she is still alive there will be a blink reflex.
If you rescue a pinkie or joey – remember that even if you don’t have a rescue kit with you, all they need is heat (your body temperature is perfect), silence (no loud radio, talking, kids or dogs) and darkness (don’t pass the little one on from person to person to have a look). The stress of being handled too much could kill them. Just keep them quiet, in your shirt next to your body if you have to, and get them to a wildlife carer or nearest vet.
Don’t pull by the legs but get your hands behind them and gently push outwards.
Handling a wombat takes some skill but also common sense. Beware of teeth as they will bite when scared. Their claws are blunt from digging and are not used for self defence or attack so those won’t hurt you. If you need to pick up a wombat, approach from behind and when you pick them up, hold their back to your stomach with your one arm around their waist and the other hand under the bum to support their weight.