Wildlife and Bushfires
Fire is a part of the Tasmanian landscape, with some vegetation types being dependent on fire, while others are sensitive to fire. Bushfires can also have negative impacts on native animals, particularly where food and shelter resources are removed or depleted over large areas.
Evidence shows that wildlife can escape the direct impacts of fire by fleeing or seeking shelter in burrows, rock crevices or insulated tree hollows; however, these opportunities will depend on the nature of the fire in terms of speed, extent, intensity and directional changes.
Injured or Orphaned Wildlife
If you find injured or orphaned wildlife call the Wildlife Management Branch on 6165 4305 (business hours) or Bonorong Wildlife Rescue on 0447 264 625 (all hours). There may also be a local rescue and rehabilitation group in your area.
If the animal cannot be easily approached and contained, please contact one of the above for advice to avoid causing further injury or distress to the animal. Wild animals can also cause injuries to humans and transmit disease in some circumstances.
If you see uninjured wildlife dispersing after a fire leave the wildlife alone and undisturbed to rest and leave of their own accord.
The Wildlife Management Branch works with volunteer community groups, wildlife rehabilitators and wildlife parks to provide assistance to injured and orphaned animals. Many of these are trained in the specialised needs of wildlife undergoing rehabilitation after bushfires. If you are interested in becoming a wildlife rehabilitator please contact:
Wildlife Management Branch on 6165 4305 or email Wildlife.Reception@dpipwe.tas.gov.au
How to Assist Wildlife after Bushfires in the Landscape
Do not enter areas affected by bushfire until it is safe to do so.
Be alert for fire-affected wildlife when driving through burnt landscapes as animals may be weakened and more susceptible to being hit by vehicles. Restrain cats and dogs as fire-affected wildlife will be more prone to predation.
In normal circumstances, the feeding of wildlife is not recommended as it can harm animal health and survival.
Following fire, if unburnt vegetation remains in the landscape there is no need to provide supplementary feed. If fire has destroyed extensive landscapes, then short-term supplementary feeding in the fire-affected landscape could be considered.
The following points provide guidance to avoid any unintended negative impacts:
- Only provide supplementary food or water on land with the permission of the landowners or managers. Approval from the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service is required before providing water or food to wildlife in national parks and reserves.
- Provide shallow bowls of clean water and refresh regularly. Water containers should be placed away from buildings and roads and should include sticks or rocks to prevent drowning of small animals.
- If possible, source water locally to avoid spreading water-borne pathogens and diseases.
- If feeding is considered necessary, only provide macropod (wallaby and kangaroo) pellets.
- Do not provide supplementary food such as bread, hay, vegetables and fruit.
- Pellets containing grain and chaff, hay, or bread can promote the development of diseases including lumpy jaw in macropods.
- Hay contains seeds of weeds and introduced plant species.
- Some fruit and vegetables can cause bloat, as a wild animal’s digestive system is not designed for non-native food.
- Avoid leaving large amounts of food in the environment. Piles of food may become mouldy, grow pathogens that may negatively impact animals, attract feral species and aggregate animals so that they become more susceptible to predation and disease. Pellets should be sparsely scattered amongst leaf litter, across large areas.
- Do not feed close to roads as this is not only a safety hazard but will likely lead to increased roadkill.
- When vegetation starts to recover, decrease the quantity of food provided to minimise habituation and dependence.
Monitoring of Feeding Wildlife in the Landscape after Bushfires in Tasmania
Following the fires on Tasmania’s Central Plateau in early 2019, DPIPWE’s Natural Values Science Section deployed cameras to monitor the presence and activity of wildlife at supplementary feeding stations.
The findings of this monitoring included:
- Few species visited the food stations. Bennett’s wallaby was the most commonly detected species (47% of images) followed by pademelon (16%), forest raven (13%), brush-tailed possum (5%) and European rabbit (4%).
- Wombats, quolls, Tasmanian devils and cats were rarely observed and were not recorded consuming the food provided.
- Of the smaller, more vulnerable species to fire (e.g. short ranging small mammals including potoroos, bandicoots, native rats, mice, antechinus etc.), only long-tailed mice were observed in images from one site (0.3%).
- Four introduced species were recorded consuming the supplemented food or passing through the site: European rabbit, black rat, house mouse and cat.
- Forest ravens feed on roadkill, insects, lizards and birds – their congregation at feed stations could increase their potential to predate on smaller species in the area.
- Habituation to cars and people was observed with wallabies approaching the food stations as cars arrived with food. Food stations placed close to road-sides also presented a hazard for vehicles and wildlife generally.
- No animals in visibly poor body condition or with injuries were observed in the images.