WIRES Northern Rivers warn people not to feed human food to wild animals.
WIRES Northern Rivers warn people not to feed human food to wild animals.

Feeding drought affected wildlife a ‘death sentence’

WIRES Northern Rivers has taken to Facebook to warn residences of a deadly infection that is a 'death sentence' to wallabies.

Due to drought and bushfires in the east coast of Australia, there's been a steep increase in the cases of 'Lumpy Jaw' in macropods - a rare bacterial infection that starts in the mouth and slowly makes its way toward the brain, eventually killing the animal.

Recently WIRES has been called to three cases in the Northern Rivers area, where wild wallabies have been observed with a swollen jaw, face and eyes. While the infection is treatable in the very early stages, by the time the animal is showing symptoms it is usually too late.

"[Lumpy Jaw] is caused by bad teeth which they don't normally get. Only when they are fed inappropriate food," said Sue Ulyatt, the Macropod coordinator and a founding member of WIRES Northern Rivers.

"And often that's things like bread. Sadly, it is often given to them by people trying to be kind, but it's not their natural food. It makes their teeth rot and that is how the infection can start."

"And by the time it presents itself, it's basically too far gone. It is a death sentence for them."

According to Ms Ulyatt, this condition is extremely uncommon in wild wallabies and, in all likelihood, the recent rise in cases has been caused by the very people trying to save them.

"We've just had a drought and that is why I think we've seen an increase in this. It's very rare in wild animals and not something we generally come across," said Ms Ulyatt.

"Because of the drought a lot of people have been feeding them. But unfortunately, it's been the wrong foods."

WIRES has recently found several wallabies with a deadly infection called 'Lumpy Jaw'. Picture: WIRES Northern Rivers Facebook
WIRES has recently found several wallabies with a deadly infection called 'Lumpy Jaw'. Picture: WIRES Northern Rivers Facebook

While she recommends that wildlife should generally be left to their own devices, if a person is going to feed a wallaby they should ensure they are giving them macropod pellets. However, due to recent rainfall, there is currently no need to be feeding them.

Ms Ulyatt also warned that macropods can become reliant on a food source, which means they become more readily available to predators, such as wild dogs and foxes.

"[This is] because they come back to one point to eat all the time, and predators very quickly work that out."

If you come across a sick or injured animal and need advise on what to do, call the WIRES Northern Rivers emergency hotline on 66281898