Possums die during four days of heat

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ROADSIDE rescue: A heat-distressed ringtail possum is given a drink on the side of the road. Many possums were hit as they lay on the searing bitumen or tried to cross roads in search of water (Picture: J. Hansen).

WILDLIFE rescuers have been stunned by the hundreds of native animals killed during last weekend’s searing heat.

Australian Wildlife Protection Council secretary Eve Kelly said wildlife shelter volunteers, vets and residents did the best they could to ease the animals’ suffering.

Help came too late for these dead ringtail possums gathered by rescuers on Somers Beach.

However, they were powerless to prevent the “terrible suffering of ringtail possums as they struggled to cope with the relentless temperatures” over four days of high temperatures.

“Many possums simply dropped out of their nests, unable to survive the scorching heat; others made their way into the sea trying desperately to cool down,” Ms Kelly said. 

“Mass deaths were reported by rescuers along the waterline on Somers beach. Similarly heat-affected animals could be found of the other side of the peninsula at Capel Sound, Fingal and Gunnamatta beaches, on streets in Mt Martha and along the Frankston Freeway. Scores more were hit and killed on the roads throughout the peninsula.”

Ms Kelly said residents could play a bigger part in easing the animals’ suffering. “In a heatwave it is really important to leave shallow dishes of water out in your garden for local wildlife, keep your pets away from wildlife in distress and if you come across wildlife in distress call wildlife rescue groups for help and/or advice,” she said.

“If you come across a ringtail possum on the ground you can place a towel over its head and the rest of the body, place it in a cardboard box and bring inside. Also, place a small dish of water in the box, do not try to force it to drink, and keep it dark and quiet.

“If the possum seems to have recovered by the evening and the temperature has cooled down, it should be OK to release it back where you found it, but please ask for advice if unsure. 

“If you come across a dead possum always check to see if it has young on its back on in the pouch and call for help.”

Organisations to call: Wildlife Victoria 1300 094 535, 7.30am-7pm Monday to Friday and 8am-6.30pm weekends. Animalia Wildlife Shelter 0435 822 699, 24 hours Frankston. AWARE Wildlife Rescue 0412 433 727, 24 hours. WHOMP 0477 555 611 based on the peninsula. Crystal Ocean Wildlife Shelter 0407 787 770, Rye. 

The Snake Catcher Victoria 0408 806 7062 or 597 504 81 specialises in assisting injured reptiles and relocating snakes 24 hours.

First published in the Western Port News – 5 March 2019

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