first Bare-Nosed Wombat boy came into care weighing 2.2kg. He was found wandering
alone in Namadji National Park near Canberra. Despite searching for some time,
his rescuers could not find his mother.
Between the frequent feeds, cuddles and general settling in process, I wondered
what to call him - after all he was strong, feisty and seemed to be injury free
- so I was optimistic he would thrive. I don't know why it took me so long to
come to the obvious name, after all the only things I seemed to say to him when
feeding him was "Ouch" or "Ouch that really hurt".
Apart from the finger 'biting' when he first arrived, Ouch proved to be a gentle
soul. He was extremely playful and loved to run around at full speed.
In no time at all, Ouch was over 23kgs and was ready to be released back to where
he had come from. For weeks I travelled to Namadji looking for a suitable site:
away from roads, somewhere with a good food and water supply and a local wombat
population close by. Finding a site that would meet all these requirements was
the easy part.
The hard thing for me was not being totally confident that I had raised an independent
wombat or one that was healthy and fit enough to defend his territory. No matter
how much I talked to other carers, my concerns remained. Also the logistics of
a hard release seemed daunting.
I had to delay the release day several times because of inclement weather - at
last the drought had broken and it poured, then there were frosts and then poured
with rain again. Finally the weather cleared and the release could not be put
off any longer. I started to make preparations in earnest:
carry cage was placed in his enclosure days before the release day|
co-opted a friend to come and assist on the day (someone Ouch was familiar with)|
medicated him and watched his behaviour closely in case he had an adverse reaction
the day of the release - Sunday 2 October - Ouch seemed to sense something was
going on. He got up mid afternoon to prowl around his enclosure. I though it would
be difficult to persuade him to get into the cage. He proved me wrong. With only
a little bum push, he climbed into the cage and sat waiting for us to get organised.
tied the covered cage into the back of the ute and set off for the 40 minute drive
to Namadji. When we arrived, we uncovered the cage so that Ouch could take a peek
at his new surroundings. He was stressed and panting, but quite calm. When he
seemed confident with the new smells and noises, we carried the cage down the
hill to the burrow I had selected. We all sat quietly for some time before opening
the cage door. Ouch was out and down the burrow in a flash.
burrow was not to his liking and he got stuck into the renovations with gusto.
How and again he would re-surface and stick his nose into the air to sniff. While
Ouch was digging out his new home, we unpacked the bedding, grass and scats we
have brought from home.
an hour, Ouch had nibbled some grass and set about investigating his new front
yard. He would not venture far from us to begin with.
his foraging took him further a field and for longer periods. On one of his longer
treks, we decided to start walking back up the hill. Ouch must have been busy
being a typical inquisitive wombat or maybe our trudge through the bush was remarkable
quiet (hard to believe), either way, he did not come running after us. When we
had found a good vantage point at the top of the hill, we sat and watched the
rustling in the undergrowth. For more than 30 minutes we watched him feed, sit
and explore. Seeing and hearing no sign of a distressed wombat, we left him for
next day, we returned to the burrow to find Ouch had not eaten any of the grass
left for him nor had he spent the night in the burrow. My heart sank, I felt sick.
What had happened to Ouch? Then we heard movement further down the hill. There
he was sitting outside a better burrow site, surveying his domain. The site he
had found was so much better than the one I had selected for him. After all what
do we humans really know about burrows!
edged closer, but he took one look at us and bolted down his hole. We walked around
the site checking that he had been eating. There was evidence he had been quite
active during the night. We sat close to his burrow and waited. He did pop his
head out, but the sight or smell of us sent him straight back down his burrow.
Having waited for some time in the hope of seeing him again we gave up and set
off back up the hill. Close to the top of the hill, we heard him emerge from his
burrow. He stayed on his 'sit' for ages before heading downwards.
have been out several times to check his progress. I have not seen him, but have
noted evidence of wombat activity around the burrow.