Kurt Tuthill Program Manager at the Department of Human Services has fond memories of his Dad bringing home an orphaned wombat when he was 5 years old, so it’s not surprising in his spare time he’s now a wildlife carer in Tasmania.
“Marsupials are incredible animals”, says Kurt. “They’ve evolved to survive in a unique and harsh landscape.
“In Australia, we are very fortunate to live close to nature, but with that comes a responsibility, as we are living in the middle of animals’ homes.”
Kurt has been a wildlife carer for nearly 20 years and the most common animals he and his wife care for are members of the kangaroo family – Bennett’s Wallabies, Pademelons and Bettongs – as well as Bandicoots and Ring Tail Possums.
“In many ways, being a carer puts you in the position of being a new parent,” says Kurt.
“Newly orphaned joeys will often require feeding and toileting every 4 hours.
“Stress is a big killer of new orphans, with the first 2 weeks being the most critical – so lots of warmth and physical closeness to reduce their stress is vital.
“We have a fleecy pouch with straps so we can carry them around full-time over this period, just like their mother’s pouch!”
Being a wildlife carer isn’t all about the cuddles, Kurt says, although that is a big plus!
“I once read that Bettongs are best described as a ‘fur-covered hand grenade’. It’s true! When they’re in a feisty mood, they’ll roll on to their back and kick, scratch and bite you all at the same time!”
Many of the animals Kurt cares for are orphaned after their parents are killed by vehicles or domestic pets.
Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary runs Tasmania’s largest 24 hour wildlife rescue and advice centre, so they know the danger local wildlife can be in when they come into contact with people.
Melinda Hunt, a Wildlife Keeper from Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary says there are a number of ways you can help prevent the death of native wildlife.
“Humans and their vehicles are a great danger to native animals,” she said.
“Many of our critters here in Tasmania are crepuscular (active during dusk and dawn) or nocturnal (active at night), making them difficult to spot by drivers.
“We also don’t have any high-level predators such as the dingo or fox, making this small island a haven for wildlife.”
Melinda recommends taking some simple steps to assist in caring for your local wildlife.
“Reduce your speed by 20km/h when driving between dusk and dawn, keep cats inside or build them a cat run, and walk your dog on a lead, especially on beaches or in the bush,” she said.
Melinda has some advice for you if you do happen to come across an injured or deceased animal.
“If you see a deceased animal on the side of the road, only pull over if it’s safe to do so,” she said
“Take the animal at least 2 metres off the side of the road and check if there is a pouch. If the animal is still alive or you see something moving, call your local wildlife service.
“If the animal is deceased, there’s no pouch or there’s nothing in it, make sure the animal is well off the road to protect scavenging animals from becoming secondary road kill.”
Kurt dreams of one day having enough bush around his home to release the animals he cares for on his own land.
“Once wildlife comes to trust humans, it’s often hard to safely release them into the wild again,” he said
“It can be done, but it takes a lot of time and the perfect location so that the animals can gradually learn the skills to survive on their own.”
- Read more about Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary