Taree's Koalas in Care saves koalas from dog attacks

September is Save the Koala month, and we want you to meet Barley. 

Barley is an adult male koala rescued by Taree organisation Koalas in Care on August 31, after being attacked and mauled by two dogs. 

His injuries are horrific and confronting – he sustained a ruptured eyeball, and severe punctures in his thighs, inner legs, rump area, around his testicles, up his back, and his arms.

His eye later had to be removed, and he is now in his third week of care. But his survival is not secure yet.

“At the moment his left hind leg is still quite swollen, the puncture wounds haven’t healed yet and he’s not able to weight-bear on that leg at this time,” Koalas in Care facility manager, Christeen McLeod says.

“He’s had his stitches removed from his eye and that’s healing well but he’ll be several weeks in care until we get this leg functional again.”

Barley cannot be released into the wild until he is 100 per cent rehabilitated, although minus one eye. It is koala mating season, and he needs to be fit and and strong to defend his territory from other males, and to breed. 

Unfortunately, Barley’s terrifying and painful encounter with dogs is not a rare occurrence for koalas. Apart from disease, dog attacks and being hit by cars are the two biggest killers of our cuddly marsupials.

You might assume that the majority of dog attacks on koalas happen in suburban back yards, but you’d be wrong. Most attacks happen on rural residential properties. 

“Rural residential properties are an issue as far as wildlife go, because people buy acreages and they have dogs and they think that because they have this acreage they can allow their dogs to roam freely on that acreage,” Christeen says.

“What we’re trying to educate people on is that they need to confine their dogs at night when the koalas are moving – changing trees, looking for mates, and doing what koalas do.

“There are a number of measures they can do to help the situation if there is an issue. If somebody has an attack on a koala on their property we try and educate them when we go to rescue the koala so that we can minimise the risk of it happening again.

“But if people don’t take on board what we are saying to them, and we have to revisit many times, it just becomes a huge problem,” Christeen says.

What we’re trying to educate people on is that they need to confine their dogs at night when the koalas are moving – changing trees, looking for mates, and doing what koalas do.

The Australian Koala Foundation says that over 4000 koalas are killed each year by cats and dogs. 

“We strongly encourage people who live in areas that support wild koalas and other wildlife to restrain their dogs and cats at night,” the Foundation website says.

The Australian Koala Foundation recommends the following practices for pet owners:

  • Keep your dog or cat in a koala-proof fenced enclosure or inside a garage or dwelling overnight (from dusk until dawn). This is when koalas are most active.
  • Design your pet enclosure in a place close to your main dwelling, using fencing material that prevents koalas from climbing in (for example, apply colour-bond sheeting on the outside of the fence). Cat enclosures need to be designed in a way that prevents cats from climbing out.
  • Ensure this area does not contain any trees favoured by koalas. (Click here for a list of preferred koala food trees.)

Christeen also recommends having a roof or a wire top to a dog pen, or something to prevent the koala from climbing in.

“If you’ve got an open expanse and the dogs are in a yard, if there are no trees in there, put in something koalas can climb up, like a copper log so the koala has a place of refuge if it gets caught in that yard with the dogs,” adds Christeen.

“But the best alternative is to keep your dogs confined of a night time so they’re not just running freely. It’s not just koalas – it’s roos and other wildlife as well.”

And don’t assume because your dog is gentle it won’t attack a koala. Any animal can become vicious if they are defending their territory from intruders.

To find more information about koalas and dogs visit the Australian Koala Foundation’s ‘How to be be a responsible pet owner’ page.

If you see a koala in trouble, call Koalas in Care on their 24-hour number 6552 2183, or if no answer call 0439 406 770.