During the drought, it's not just vegetation, crops and stock who suffer. So does our native wildlife.
With a predicted hot summer and dangerous bushfire season ahead of us, now is the time to think about how we can help our wildlife get through the hard times.
A practical way we can help is by setting up watering stations to give wildlife a source of fresh, clean water.
However, it's not just as simple as filling a bowl or birdbath with water. There are a few things to think about, such as what variety of wildlife are you providing the water for, what is the best container to put the water in, what is the best place to put the watering station in, is it safe for them to use, and how often are you able to check and maintain the station.
In our backyards
Whether you are placing a bowl or a container on the ground, or have a birdbath available, here are some pointers:
Place the container in the shade to keep animals cooler and lessen evaporation of water. You can dig the container partially in the soil to help keep it cooler, and so animals don't knock it over.
Put sticks and rocks in the container to allow birds and little animals to safely access the water and help prevent drowning.
Consider placing suitable food nearby for the species you are targeting until conditions go back to normal.
Fill containers with fresh, clear water without any additives such as sugar or electrolytes, which can worsen dehydration.
Monitor the water station to make sure it is clean and refilled regularly.
In larger landholdings
The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) recommends landholders with larger properties place multiple small watering stations 500 metres apart so small animals do not have to travel as far.
"This also allows more animals to benefit, reduces the risk of disease and reduces the likelihood of predators being able to monitor all water sources at the same time," DPIE says.
Ideally, water stations would be placed near where natural water sources normally would be available.
DPIE recommends wildlife watering stations should be:
- Safe and fit-for purpose water dispenser.
- Easy to access, clean and refill with fresh water.
- Safely mounted and easily relocated.
- Cost effective and simple to make with no sharp edges or entanglement points.
- Able to have the water changed daily to prevent the spread of disease, or have a secure gravity fed reservoir that is not able to be contaminated or fouled with debris or faeces.
- Constructed with either a small watering access point or, for those with a larger surface area of accessible water, have a ramp or other device provided for an animal to scramble out if they fall in.
- Mapped, regularly inspected and removed when natural water sources become available.
If possible, monitor the watering station/s with a motion activated wildlife camera to see what species of wildlife are using the water source, as you don't want it to become a convenient space for feral animals to gather.
You can download examples of simple wildlife watering devices from DPIE here.
For more information on helping wildlife in emergencies visit www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/animals-and-plants/native-animals/helping-wildlife-in-emergencies.
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