Living with Wildlife

Our district is characterised by bushland, rural and semi-rural environments, which still retain a reasonable proportion of native habitat. We often find we are sharing our backyards and properties with a range of native wildlife. Mostly we can happily co-exist, however on occasion there are species which can cause problems. We must remember that these wild animals are instinctively trying to survive and are sometimes under enormous pressure in a rapidly changing environment. They are also protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (NPW Act).

The Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) has more information about living with wildlife.

POSSUMS
The Brush-tailed possum is now considered ‘rare’ in South Australia, undergoing a steady decline with the onset of habitat destruction due to spreading urbanisation.

These nocturnal marsupials emerge from their dens or hollows at night and venture out in search of food; traversing roof tops, tree canopies, power lines and fences to avoid the ground where predators and other dangers lurk. They are mostly a wary creature, avoiding humans unless they are being fed, but can pose a nuisance by feeding on garden produce and damaging fruit trees and flowers, whilst also proving to be a noisy resident when living in the roof cavity.

Several steps can be taken to minimise the nightly disturbance and protect domestic gardens and horticultural produce from the scavenging possums.

  • ‘Possum Proof’ your house | Seal obvious holes and broken tiles. Provide an alternative home by erecting a nest box in a nearby tree or sheltered position, at least four metres above the ground.
  • Relocation | You have a legal responsibility to deal with a possum problem in a humane manner so possum relocation can be an option. In South Australia all possums are protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 and the Animal Welfare Act 1985. You must have a permit to capture and release possums. Alternatively contact a licenced possum removal service.
  • Do not feed | Artificial food will encourage possums to converge on the area and possibly lead to conflict between animals. Possums can also become reliant on a food source and grow unaccustomed to foraging. This includes compost heaps, bird feeders and fallen fruit from fruit trees.
  • Protect fruit trees and vegetable gardens
    • Fruit Trees | use wide collars of metal sheeting around the trunks or branches of trees to stop possums climbing (60cm wide and 60cm above the ground). Trees will also need to be pruned back so they can’t be reached from the canopy of adjoining trees. Cover small fruit trees in frames covered in light shade cloth (netting can often entangle the animal).
    • Gardens | in extreme cases, gardens can be enclosed in chicken wire to protect vegetable plants. A bitter spray such as quassia chips, minced garlic or chilli flakes that have been boiled and made into a liquid spray can be used to deter feeding possums.

Contacts and useful links
Minton Farm Native Animal Rescue Centre and Injured Animal Hospital | 0422 938 439
Fauna Rescue of SA Inc.Wildlife Hotline | (08) 8289 0896
Bats incl. Microbats & Flying Foxes Rescue Hotline | 0474 204 617
SA Fauna Rescue Possum Box

KANGAROOS
As our urban areas encroach on preferred kangaroo habitat, residents increasingly come into contact with them which could become dangerous for the kangaroos or residents. For the most part, kangaroos are placid animals, but can be dangerous when they feel threatened, however the overall risk of being attacked by a kangaroo is very low.

It is important you are aware of how important it is to enjoy these animals from a distance. Several steps can be taken to minimise the risk to humans or animals.

  • Do not feed | This brings kangaroos in to close contact with humans and increases any potential risks or dangers they may pose to people. In addition, an artificial diet is often unsuitable to their dietary requirements and can lead them to become aggressive and overly reliant on the food source, even creating unbalanced kangaroo numbers.
  • Do not let your dog/s chase kangaroos. In the event a mother kangaroo is under threat, they will often eject the joey to improve their chances of escape. The joey is obviously extremely vulnerable away from the mother and often dies of exposure or attack from predators. Dogs are also highly at risk of being hurt as kangaroos will vigorously defend themselves when confronted, potentially drawing you into a dangerous situation.
  • Consider fencing gardens and high value crops and limit the available resources around your home that attract kangaroos such as open water, sheltered areas, and food.
  • Keep a safe distance from kangaroos and educate your children, visitors and friends about having a healthy respect for wildlife. For a variety of reasons, but particularly when they or their young joeys are under threat, a kangaroo may attack a person as if they would another kangaroo. They are known to push and scratch with their forepaws or sit back on their tail and kick out with its hind legs and resulting injuries can be serious.

Contacts and useful links
Fauna Rescue of SA Inc. Wildlife Hotline | (08) 8289 0896 (injured kangaroos)
Adelaide Hills Council | (08) 8408 0400 (dead kangaroos)

Please remember, kangaroos are protected animals and it is an offence to injure or kill them. If you believe there is an abundance of kangaroos in your area, please contact Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources as they are responsible for the conservation and management of abundant kangaroo species in South Australia. (08) 8204 1910

KOALAS
The koala was formally only located in the lower south-east of South Australia but was hunted to extinction for the fur trade. To help secure their survival, Koalas were introduced to the Mount Lofty Ranges and other regions between 1959-69. There are now an estimated 114,000 koalas throughout the Mount Lofty Ranges and have become an iconic native species with a very high public profile. They are protected by law in South Australia under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (NPW Act).

Unfortunately, koalas have built up to unsustainable numbers within the region and threaten the very habitat on which they rely, primarily Eucalyptus viminalis (Manna Gum). In many areas these trees are showing chronic signs of defoliation due to over-browsing by koalas and in some cases, death. The Department of Water and Natural Resources has developed a strategy to help conserve and manage the koalas across our state. This Strategy brings together government, the community, natural resource managers, experts and scientists to look at ways of working together to guide, manage and conserve our koala population long into the future. We all have a role to play in implementing the Strategy’s actions. For more information please read through The South Australian Koala Conservation and Management Strategy.

Many residents encounter koalas on a regular basis, visiting the trees within their gardens and in local reserves and roadsides, crossing roads, and unfortunately as roadkill on the major highways. They are particularly prevalent during the breeding season (September to February) and during heatwaves where they will spend more time on the ground moving between trees or searching for water. Despite the healthy population of koalas in the Adelaide Hills district, the species still face significant challenges from the impacts of development and destruction of their habitat, disease, vehicle strikes, dog attacks and bushfires.

You can take some actions to minimise impacts on koalas and assist in their conservation:

  • Keeping dogs under control and protecting koalas from pets in the event that they are on the ground during hot weather or travelling between trees
  • Provide drinking water at the base of trees during hot weather
  • Planting preferred food trees (Manna Gum (Eucalyptus viminalis), River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis ssp. camaldulensis), Swamp Gum (Eucalyptus ovata), SA Blue Gum (Eucalyptus leucoxylon), Long-leaved Box (Eucalyptus goniocalyx) and Brown Stringybark (Eucalyptus obliqua)
  • Being alert while driving and slowing down while driving on roads where koalas might be crossing

It is important to remember that koalas do not live in our backyards, rather we are living in theirs. Never attempt to pick up a koala on the ground, as it is extremely stressful to the animal and they can become aggressive and will likely scratch or bite.

Contacts and useful links
DEWNR | (08) 8204 1910 (sick or injured koalas)
Koala Rescue hotline (24 hours) | (08) 7226 0017
Adelaide Hills Council | (08) 8408 0400 (removal of dead koalas from minor roads)
Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure | 1800 018 313 (removal of dead koalas from state roads)

SNAKES
Residents are more likely to encounter snakes during the warmer months of the year, from October to April when they are active.

The most common snakes encountered in the region are the Eastern Brown Snake (Pseudonaja textilis), Red-bellied Black Snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus), the Pygmy Copperhead (Austrelaps labialis) and the Little Whip Snake (Parasuta flagellum). They are all venomous snakes but bites to humans are rare due to their timid and inconspicuous nature. They will try and avoid confrontation by either moving away and hiding, or lying still until the threat has moved away. However, they may try to defend themselves if they feel cornered or threatened.

Snakes generally inhabit natural areas of bushland, grasslands and creeklines of the Adelaide Hills, but have also adapted well to urban environments. They predominantly feed on rats and mice and find suitable shelter around our homes and sheds.

It is important to be aware that snakes live in our environment, are protected under the Natural Parks and Wildlife Act 1975. and there are steps that can be taken to minimise the chance of encounters.

  • Tidy up rubbish around your property | Snakes are attracted to shelter such as rocks and timber, sheets of iron lying on the ground, or building materials.
  • Reduce feral rats and mice numbers | Often rats can proliferate in a back yard when a food source is unrestricted. This often occurs in association with chickens coups/sheds and open compost pits. Explore ways to limit the availability of food for rodents which inadvertently provide snakes with a regular food supply.
  • Unkempt lawns and long grass can provide havens for snake.
  • Snakes will take shelter in unseen, dark places - such as shoes left outside!
  • Educate children to respect snakes, be aware of where they may live, what to do if they encounter a snake and how to avoid being bitten.

If you find a snake:

  • Move away slowly, keep children and pets clear and do not attempt to touch or catch it
  • Contact a licenced snake removalist if necessary (see below)
  • Apply first aid and seek medical help immediately if a bite occurs
  • Do not try to kill a snake

If you feel you need to remove the snake from an inappropriate location, please contact a snake removal service.

Contacts and useful links
Snake Catchers Adelaide (24 hours) | 0413 511 440 (Southern Adelaide, Hills and Fleurieu)
Adelaide Hills Snake Catcher (24 hours) | 0427 991 573 (Adelaide Hills)
Snake - Away Services | 0413 511 335

BIRDS
A range of birds utilise the habitats within the Mt Lofty Ranges. Many of these species are still reliant on the native woodlands, shrublands and grasslands, whilst others have adapted to the changes brought about by agriculture and urbanisation.

Backyards
Birds such as the Eastern Rosella, Rainbow Lorikeet, New Holland Honeyeater, Eastern Spinebill, Crested Pigeon, Common Bronzewing, Australian Raven and Spotted Pardalote are some of the Australian Museum’s top 30 Birds in Backyards. These species are often attracted to the diversity of foods provided by exotic and native gardens and fruit trees, domestic chicken coups and bird feeders. Some residents welcome birds to their backyards providing bird baths and actively planting suitable plant species such Wattles, Hakeas, Eucalypts, Bottlebrushes, Teatrees and Sheoaks to attract birds.

Artificially feeding birds is not encouraged as it is detrimental to their health and survival; they can become overly reliant on the food source and can become aggressive, harassing people for food when they are hungry. They are also less likely to continue foraging for their normal wide range of natural foods, and become sick from a diet of processed seeds, breads and other foods.

Aggression in birds
Many people have experienced swooping birds when they are nesting. Birds such as the Australian Magpie, Magpie Lark (Murray Magpie) and the Masked Lapwing (Plover) are frequent culprits during the spring, aggressively and instinctively defending their nests and young from passing pedestrians, cyclists and dogs. Noisy Miners and Wattlebirds will also swoop, but this can happen all year round. At times these birds will even make contact with the passer by, causing injury. Some of the precautions you can take to minimise contact with aggressive birds include:

  • Stay alert, be aware of nesting sites and listen for distinctive calls.
  • Take a different route to avoid nesting bird (birds will normally only swoop within a 50 metre radius of their nest).
  • Wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat to protect your head and eyes and/or carry an umbrella.
  • Use books, bags, skateboard or even your bike as a shield to protect yourself.
  • If you are cycling or skating, the bird will probably stop swooping if you get off your bike/skateboard and walk.
  • Do not provoke the birds as they are very territorial and will protect their nests.
  • Walk quickly away from the area, but do not run. Stay calm, as a panicked response can trigger further or elevated aggression from the bird.
  • Cover your eyes with your hands during an attack as the birds will often go for the eyes with their sharp pointy beak.
  • Birds will often attack from behind, so facing the bird should avert an attack.
  • Try sticking fake eyes on the back of your hat or cable ties on your cycling helmet.
  • Sometimes travelling in groups can deter an attack as birds will tend to swoop on individuals
  • Advise the council of areas of known swooping birds so warning signs can be erected to warn others.

Unwanted nesting birds
Some species such as Striated Pardalotes, Welcome Swallows, Common Blackbird and the Feral European Pigeon have found human habitation ideal for their nesting locations, choosing sheds, carports, open cavities in roofs, telegraph poles and other small spaces in and around our homes. Some residents are happy to oblige and even encourage nesting species, whereas others may not find it so endearing. Nesting birds and their young can often be noisy and leave a mess beneath their nests and in the roof.

It can be a very difficult task to relocate nests without disturbing birds once they are sitting on their eggs. Baby birds grow quickly so will only occupy the nest for a short period of time and then fly away to find their own territory. This is ideally the time to destroy or remove the nest and make the area less attractive to birds before next spring nesting season. This can be achieved by erecting wire or blocking access to the area where the nest was. Alternatively the nest could be removed prior to eggs being laid.

Agricultural lands
Other species such as the Little Corella, Galahs, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Musk Lorikeet, Rainbow Lorikeet and the introduced Common Blackbird can become pests in the agricultural regions of the district and regularly cause damage to commercial crops, such as orchards and other crops. The food sources for these birds have increased significantly due to the establishment of vineyards, fruit crops and flowering trees.

There are a number of options to assist in minimising the damage caused by birds, including netting orchard trees and vines, which is very labour intensive, costly and is not 100% effective. Gas guns are partially effective, but are not suitable in more heavily populated areas. There are Destruction Permits issued by Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR), and whilst most of the native species are protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972, several species such as listed as Unprotected Species and a permit is not required to destroy the animals by shooting. In any circumstances, when destroying an animal you must aim to minimise suffering of the animal. You also must comply with animal welfare standards outlined in the Animal Welfare Act 1985, the regulations under that Act and codes of practice where they exist.

Contacts and useful links
Animal Welfare Act 1985
Fauna Permits
Minton Farm Native Animal Rescue Centre and Injured Animal Hospital | 0422 938 439
Fauna Rescue of SA Inc.Wildlife Hotline (24 hours) | (08) 8289 0896

INSECTS/SPIDERS
Part of living in the Adelaide Hills means having to share our space with native and introduced insects and other creepy crawlies. Some of these are more of a nuisance than danger, such as the introduced millipede, whilst others can pose a danger to humans and are known to deliver a painful bite or sting (e.g. bees, wasps and venomous spiders), and cause severe reactions in some people. The most common species encountered in the Hills include bees, European wasps, millipedes, mosquitoes, Hopper ants, Inch ants, and Redback, Huntsman and Whitetail spiders.

A common sense approach should be applied to common insects and spiders, to minimise contact with the species and reduce the risk of harm from bites and stings.

European Honey Bee
European bees were introduced to Australia with the onset of European colonisation 200 years ago. Despite the fact that they displace the native bee species by competing for food, they perform an important function by pollinating the plants. Bee stings are common and can be painful and itchy, sometimes triggering an allergic reaction (Anaphylaxis) where the victim requires immediate medical attention.

What can be done to minimise the risks?

  • Do not attempt to remove a hive or a swarm of bees yourself.
  • Be aware of known local hives (in trees or buildings) and stay well clear to avoid stings.
  • Stay away from flowering shrubs and trees where bees are currently visiting.
  • Report unwanted bee hives and swarms to a professional Bee Keeper (Apriarist) who will generally relocate the bees and charge a small fee which is normally much less than a registered Pest Controller.
  • If you have a known allergic response to bee stings, take normal precautions including wearing a Medical Alert bracelet (or jewellery) at all times and carrying the appropriate EpiPen® in case of stings.

Millipede
The black Portuguese millipede was accidentally introduced to Port Lincoln, South Australia in 1953, and has since spread across the state in large numbers. They are an herbivorous creature, eating only dead and decaying plant matter. They don’t bite, are not poisonous or harm human beings in any way.

Barriers, both chemical and physical, and light traps are the most practical ways of preventing millipedes from invading houses. At the landscape scale, biological control is probably the only feasible method, but no suitable agents have been found yet. A parasitic nematode has had limited effect. A suitable chemical, applied in a band wide enough to kill millipedes crossing it, can be applied to brick or cement surfaces around the house, and to doorsteps and window ledges. Physical barriers stop and/or trap millipedes moving towards the house. A smooth, clean, vertical surface is effective, or a moat with overhanging sides. They are also attracted to light, and you can construct a millipede trap out of a length of oblong-section galvanised steel downpipe and a low voltage bulb.

As a defence mechanism, the millipede secretes a pungent yellowish fluid containing hydrogen cyanide. This stains clothes permanently and irritates eyes. Due to this defence it is best to sweep them up rather than crush them.

Click here for other information about insects.

Contacts and useful links
Beekeepers' Society of South Australia (BSSA)

Hopper Ants and Bull Ants
The Hopper Ant or Jumping Jack (Myrmecia pilosula) are an aggressive, jumping and venomous ant species which are primarily active during the day. They prefer natural, dry woodland habitats, grasslands and rural areas, where their nests are normally low mounds built from fine gravel, soil and small pebbles, but are often difficult to find and may be present under rock. For most people, the sting will only cause a mild but painful local reaction, however about three per cent of people are allergic to the venom and can suffer from anaphylactic reactions.

The Bull Ant or Inch Ant (Myrmecia pyriformis) is about an inch long, as its common name suggests. It is also an aggressive species but mainly only attacks when its nest is disturbed. It occupies a similar habitat to the Hopper Ant and its nest is usually underground and often have hidden or small entrances. The sting from a Bull Ant is similar to that of the Hopper Ant, with the risk of anaphylaxis in some victims.

How to manage Hopper and Bull Ants to reduce risks?

  • If there is a known allergic response avoid Hopper and Bull Ants and learn when and how to use an adrenaline (epinephrine) autoinjector (e.g. EpiPen) if prescribed and seek immediate medical attention.
  • If you are stung, and there are no signs of an allergic reaction, use an ice pack or commercially available spray to relieve pain (e.g. Stingose). Other treatments include washing the stung area with soap and water, or the aboriginal remedy of using the liquid from crushed tips bracken fern (Pteridium esculentum).
  • Educate children and others about the risks of Hopper and Bull Ants and show them what the ants and their nests looks like compared to other ants within the district such as the much less aggressive Meat Ant (Iridomyrmex purpureus). Meat Ants typically have nest-mounds that are oval-shaped, one or two metres wide and cleared of vegetation and covered with gravel.
  • Wear heavy clothing such as boots and gloves when gardening.
  • Some people prefer to remove nests to reduce the risk of stings. Seek professional advice on how to remove the nests/kills the ants if necessary.

Redback Spider
The Redback Spider (Latrodectus hasselti) is a common resident within the Adelaide Hills Council district, often found in dry, inconspicuous places such as among rocks, in logs, junk-piles, sheds, or toilets and are regularly seen in the undersides of pot plants, inside rubber boots left outside and under the lips of rubbish bins. They are not aggressive spiders but will bite if their nest is disturbed although often bites are ineffective due to the spider’s small jaws. The bite from a Redback Spider can deliver a powerful venom which acts directly on the nerves, and many people are hospitalised each year. However, since antivenom has been available there have been no deaths associated with bites.

The females have the typical appearance of the black (occasionally brownish) body with an obvious red or orange stripe down its abdomen (back section), whereas the males spider’s body is light brown with the red stripe often much less distinct.

How to manage Redback Spiders to reduce risks of being bitten?

  • Wear gloves and boots when moving junk piles, pot plants or rubbish bins etc and always check first before reaching into the letterbox or other dark places, such as children’s sandpits, toys and bikes, helmets, rubber boots and other items left outside. Before using always shake out any items that have been sitting outside.
  • If bitten, apply an ice pack to the site to help relieve pain and seek medical attention. Do not apply a pressure bandage. Collect the spider for positive identification (if possible).
  • Teach children that they can look but not touch spiders and be aware of where frequently they build their nests.
  • Physical barriers can be used to reduce the number of spiders entering the house, fitting weather strips to the doors and fly-screens to windows and wall ventilators will prevent any climbing spiders from obtaining access.
  • Spider and egg sac removal. Some people prefer to remove the spider and any eggs found nearby the living areas. If you think it is safe to do so, deposit the spider away from the house.
  • Chemical control. There are many pest control companies online that offer a service of chemically controlling spiders if you feel the need to eliminate the problem.

Huntsman Spider
The Huntsman Spider (Latrodectus hasselti) is a large, long legged and often grey to brown spider. Outside they prefer narrow spaces under loose bark of trees or rock crevices, but will sometimes venture inside houses and sheds. They are also renowned for sneaking into cars, and at times found lurking behind sun visors. To those arachnophobia types, this resembles a nightmare and car accidents can happen as a result. To others, the presence of a Huntsman Spider in the house is more of a welcome or tolerated guest, as they can be beneficial by preying upon household pests such as cockroaches and other smaller insects. However, the female can lay up to 200 eggs which can be problematic when the mother spider opens the egg sac to help her spiderlings out.

Huntsman spiders rarely bite people and are more likely to run away when approached. Although bites can be painful, their venom isn't considered dangerous to humans. They can occasionally cause mild nausea and headaches, but normally the symptoms are localized pain and swelling.

Tips to manage Huntsman Spiders in and around the home:

  • If bitten, apply an ice pack to the site to help relieve pain and seek medical attention if swelling and nausea persist.
  • Teach children that they can look but not touch spiders.
  • Fitting weather strips to the doors and fly-screens to windows and wall ventilators will reduce the likelihood of climbing spiders from obtaining access.
  • Remove spider and egg sacs from inside or nearby the living areas. Given that the egg sac can contain up to 200 eggs, it is probably necessary to remove the spider and her egg sac prior to it hatching. If you think it is safe to do so, deposit the spider and the egg sac away from the house. Spiders can be safely removed by capturing it with a container such as a large glass or a plastic bowl and sliding a piece of card or paper between the wall and the container, effectively sealing it off. Then it can be placed outside safely without harming it.
  • Over the counter insecticides are not recommended as they are not known be effective on spiders.

Whitetail Spider
The Whitetail Spider (Lampona cylindrata) is commonly found in homes throughout Australia and in the Adelaide Hills district. The spider is has a long dark reddish to grey cigar shaped body, with dark orange-brown banded legs with a white spot at the tip of the abdomen.

They normally live in gardens beneath bark and rocks and in leaf litter, but also venture inside houses, and are often found in the folds of clothes left on the floor, or hiding in bedding, towels and shoes. They prey mainly on other spiders, particularly the black house spider and hunt them down rather than building their own webs. They also eat the webs of other spiders.

They are reported to bite humans and their bites have been implicated in causing severe skin ulceration, known medically as necrotising arachnidism, however recent studies have shown that the white tailed spider bite is probably not linked to this condition. In fact in most cases, the bite only causes a mild local reaction, including initial burning pain, then itching and skin discolouration, which usually clears up after a few weeks.

Tips to manage Whitetail Spiders and reduce risks of being bitten:

  • Wear gloves and boots when moving junk piles, pot plants or rubbish bins etc and always check first before reaching into the letterbox or other dark places, such as children’s sandpits, toys and bikes, helmets, rubber boots and other items left outside. Before using always shake out any items that have been sitting outside.
  • Tidy up. Try not to leave clothes lying on the ground and check hanging clothes, beds and towels before using.
  • Clear away the webs of the house spiders upon which they feed and attract the white tailed spider.
  • If bitten, apply an ice pack to the site to help relieve pain and swelling. Do not use antibiotics. Seek medical attention if the any spider bite does not clear up or if the skin starts to blister or ulcerate.
  • Teach children that they can look but not touch spiders.
  • Fitting weather strips to the doors and fly-screens to windows and wall ventilators will reduce the likelihood of climbing spiders from obtaining access.
  • Spider removal. Some people prefer to remove the spider and any eggs found nearby the living areas. If you think it is safe to do so, deposit the spider away from the house.
  • Chemical control. There are many pest control companies online that offer a service of chemically controlling spiders if you are concerned about spiders in the home.

Visit the DEWNR website for more information regarding ‘Living with Wildlife’
Click here for information about European Wasts and Mosquities.