Wombat threats from guns and disease grow

Wombat threats from guns and disease grow

Increased rural and semi-rural subdivisions, leading to widespread illegal shooting and the loss of habitat, blamed for marsupials' woes.

Reports of wombats being shot and found with deadly mange have boomed, with the resources of the capital region's only designated sanctuary stretched by a record year of intakes.

Sleepy Burrows Wombat Sanctuary owner Donna Stepan​ said she had received reports of 400 wombats shot or suffering from mange across New South Wales and Victoria last year, about double the average.

Owner of Sleepy Burrows Wombat Sanctuary Donna Stepan with a rescued wombat, Chance.

Owner of Sleepy Burrows Wombat Sanctuary Donna Stepan with a rescued wombat, Chance.

Photo: Rohan Thomson

Increased rural and semi-rural subdivisions were the major underlying cause, she said, leading to widespread illegal shooting and the loss of habitat which encouraged interbreeding.

"I would say a good 50 per cent were shot – people are not shy to say, 'we shot all of the wombats on our property'," she said.

The sanctuary near Gundaroo took in 35 wombats in 2015, a record for its 13 years and up from nine the year before. Ms Stepan said the sanctuary's increased social media presence may have been a factor.


While most of last year's intake were injured adults, it included seven orphans from the ACT.

The 400 figure did not include those hit by cars, a figure which Ms Stepan said ranged from between 50 and 200 wombats a month in the Southern Tablelands alone.

Ms Stepan said wombats had "phenomenal" power and could do damage through tunnelling or fighting under a house, but the lethal response was not necessary.

"If people have fencing problems that can be fixed easily – we put a structure in the fence so the wombats can go through – and if people have horses and there are wombat burrows, that can be fixed with star pickets," she said.

Simply removing an individual wombat and relocating it would often result in another wombat moving in.

Ms Stepan said the shooting figures were all from NSW, but she was aware of mange-affected wombats in Kambah, Weston Creek and Googong.

None of the Territory and Municipal Services-led prosecutions for animal cruelty in 2014-15 related to the killing of native animals.

A TAMS spokeswoman said wildlife rangers had received 178 callouts since they began using a smartphone app to collect data on December 3. Eastern grey kangaroos made up two-thirds of these callouts, with wombats involved in only two cases. In one case the wombat was reported as dead, in the other it had to be euthanised.

"Urban wildlife rangers are on call 24/7 to respond to instances of distressed animals," she said.

For information about injured wildlife in your area contact Access Canberra on 13 22 81. Information on living with wildlife can also be found on the TAMS website.

Matthew Raggatt

Reporter at The Canberra Times

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