Sadness and joy of wildlife caring

Sharon McGrigor loves being a wildlife carer, but sadly, not all animals that come into care survive to return to the wild.

Not long ago a member of the public brought Sharon a tiny puggle (baby echidna) that was found alone in a Newrybar macadamia orchard without its mum.

The WIRES echidna co-ordinator spent 40 days hand-feeding the little fellow, who she named Doogie, before transferring him into a surrogate burrow.

“The joy of seeing these tiny ones learn to trust you and start drinking is an amazing experience,” Sharon said.

But shortly after Doogie passed away.

“I was devastated,” Sharon said. “But it’s very difficult when they come in that pink to hand raise them. I think it was the extremes in temperatures we had because a young echidna can’t handle more than about 26 degrees. We tried to keep him cool with icepacks and fans but unfortunately it wasn’t enough.”

Despite Doogie not making it, there are many happier stories where the little puggles do survive to grow into healthy, happy echidnas that can then be released. And Sharon and her team are constantly researching how to maintain burrow temperatures so they are similar to those in the wild.

“We’re currently recruiting members to join our echidna team,” Sharon said. “We always need more carers and while you can’t save every puggle, we’ve saved countless echidnas. The best feeling is when you release them – a lot of us get very clucky when we’re caring and when you see them released and that their healthy and eating and foraging and doing what they should be, it’s an amazing feeling.

“It’s actually very humbling – I often feel honoured to be so close to our Australian wildlife. We’re very lucky to care for these creatures and every now and then I have to pinch myself.”

Anyone interested in becoming a carer should call the WIRES hotline on 6628 1898.

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