RSPCA NSW Blog
You may not be in your backyard every day, but there are plenty of Australian wildlife that are! Some of your visitors will sneak in and out without your knowledge, but others might be a bit louder upon arrival. If you need to call someone about Australian wildlife, contact WIRES Wildlife Rescue. In the meantime, here are some tips on our regular visitors!
Did that lizard look at you funny and stick his tongue out at you? If his tongue was bright blue, then he’s probably a blue-tongued lizard. He’s not poisonous or threatening and likes to slowly waddle through Aussie gardens while flicking out his tongue. Blue-tongue lizards are more active during the day, pretty easy to spot and are not aggressive. They like to sunbake too!
When you see a blue-tongue lizard in your backyard, make sure you just watch and don’t touch. If you pick them up incorrectly, they might bite you or you might pull off their tails. They need their tails to store water and nutrients, but they can also detach their tails as a defence mechanism to distract and escape predators. While this makes for a speedy escape, it does take plenty of energy to regrow a tail.
The blue-tongue lizard’s diet includes berries, flowers, insects and vegetation. But most of all, they love to eat snails! They can skilfully eat snails by crushing the shell and swallowing the soft body while rejecting shell particles. They also play a valuable role in gardens and parks by controlling pests like slugs, snails and caterpillars.
You can leave out a small dish of water for blue-tongue lizards to drink from, as well as rocks and logs to help them shed their skin (they treat them like scratching posts). Blue-tongue lizards can live up to 30 years, which is 30 years of free snail and bug removal from your garden. Might as well make your garden comfortable!
Brushtail possums are easily recognisable by their thick, bushy tails. Watching one scamper around is a pretty normal Aussie experience. They usually live in backyards and in the bush.
Possums are highly territorial creatures and they don’t often survive relocation. If they are caught and released into a new area, they will probably be injured or killed by the possum already living there. There also might not be enough food or shelter for the new possum. Because of this, it’s illegal to catch possums if you’re not licensed or a professional handler in NSW.
So if this cute friend is enjoying your flower beds too much, plant a good selection of native shrubs for them to enjoy and they’ll probably leave yours alone. If brushtail possums are running across your roof at night, you can trim any overhanging branches that are within 1.5 meters of the gutter. It also pays to make sure your roof is in good condition so possums don’t see it as a potential new home.
You will most likely see these scaly friends in the spring when all the males pop out looking for females. If you see a snake in your garden or house, do not try to catch or kill it. Walk away from it slowly and keep an eye on it from a safe distance (this is several metres away). Keep your pets safely away from it and the snake will usually move on in its own time. Remember, snakes don’t want to be near humans any more than humans normally want to be near snakes.
If the snake has decided to not move on, and you really want it removed, you will need to contact a licensed snake handler to help. If the snake is inside the house, close the door of the room it’s in and place a towel under the door to stop it from leaving.
Snakes play a very important role in the Australian environment and are protected under environmental legislation, so you shouldn’t try to harm or remove them yourself. Most people who get bitten by snakes are the ones trying to harm them or remove them without professional help.
If you find a spider, do not panic. Most of Australia’s estimated 10,000 spider species are not venomous. In fact, spiders are more likely to help you out and keep your house clean of other insects. It’s mainly the Sydney funnel-web and redback spiders that are dangerous, and they’re easily identifiable. Remember, always be cautious when encountering a spider.
If you’re bitten by a Sydney funnel-web spider, stay still and apply a pressure bandage to the area. For redback bites, stay still and apply ice. In both cases, call emergency services immediately for antivenom.
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