Although fires still burn in Victoria, some parts of the bush are beginning the long journey back to renewal. Green shoots are reappearing in burnt black bushland. Wildlife survivors are moving around unburnt areas.  

Our Wildlife Assessment teams, working across fire grounds that have been declared safe near Bairnsdale, Orbost and Mallacoota, are tasked with finding and assessing fire affected wildlife. Those currently working near Bairnsdale have noticed a change: they’re now finding very few native animals in need of medical attention and more healthy animals searching for food.

Wildlife assessors Andrew Lawson and Daniel Cooper have spent the past week searching for, monitoring and helping native animals near Bairnsdale. The two Parks Victoria staff have moved from their regular roles to join one of several cross-government incident control teams doing this important work. The bushfire wildlife response involves the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Parks Victoria, Forest Fire Management Victoria, Zoos Victoria, wildlife shelters, local veterinarians and others.

The work is part of the Victorian Government’s $17.5 million initial response to the urgent needs of our fire affected native plants and animals. It will also fund habitat restoration, pest and predator control and other short-term requirements.

On a typical day, Andrew says he and Dan usually cover around 300kms. ‘We set off to a designated area that’s been affected by fire but still has some greenery around and some water in the creeks,’ he says. ‘We’re not seeing injured wildlife so much now but animals that survived the main fire front and are fairly healthy.’

If they do find injured animals, they’re taken back to Bairnsdale for further checks and treatment if needed. Wildlife Triage Units in Corryong, Bairnsdale and Mallacoota have either closed or are winding up because aerial monitoring and fire ground assessors are no longer seeing injured native animals. However, these mobile units remain ready to respond to fire affected wildlife anywhere in Victoria if needed.

In the last week, Andrew and Dan have spotted a lot of animal tracks, including wallabies, wombats, goannas and others.

Andrew says they’re noting wildlife numbers, their health and GPS information. ‘Where we see evidence and movement of animals, we put in a feeding station that’s close to fresh grass, creeks and shade and leave some food for them because they’ll eat through the greenery fairly quickly.’

They also set up motion-sensor cameras to monitor the animals.

There are several on ground assessment teams doing similar work, as well as aerial food drops. They give coordinators and wildlife experts a clearer idea of what’s happening in the landscape and with the animals.

It’s challenging, but there are positives.

For Dan it’s been the collaboration. ‘It’s great knowing there are other teams out there doing the same work as us, the support from the locals and others that are involved. It’s a big job but we’ve got lots of people working on it together.’

For Andrew, the highlights have been seeing healthy native animals. ‘We were north of Buchan the other day and saw big numbers of koalas, all in good condition and lots of joeys too. It was a joy to see.’

Page last updated: 27/07/20