It’s estimated October’s Hall Road bush fire will have ramifications across the Shire’s northern villages for years to come, but for Yerrinbool’s hidden koala population, the impact was immediately devastating.
“Within weeks of the fire, Council started receiving reports from out Yerrinbool and Bargo way from people who’d witnessed koalas encroaching on residential properties,” said Council Environmental projects Officer, Joe Stammers. “This is pretty unusual as normally koalas are quite shy.”
“We’ve even had reports of them foraging on the side of the highway and sadly, in some instances, we’re aware of them being hit by traffic.
“The most obvious reason for this change in behavior is that the recent fires burnt out their existing habitat and the remaining population are now travelling further afield in search of food,” Mr Stammers said.
The Office of Environment and Heritage reports that the Yerrinbool-Bargo koala population, whilst not well known, is an important koala breeding ground with the population thought to be one of only four remaining koala colonies in the greater Sydney area.
“In fact, up until the October fires, the population had been steadily increasing for the last 20 years,” Mr Stammers said.
“Sadly, the fires have decimated the majority of the colony’s core habitat,” he added. “Which means that the surviving animals have to either make do in areas with little food or are forced to search outside of their usual home.”
“However there are a few things people can do to help out should they find a distressed koala,” Mr Stammers said.
Injured koalas can be reported to WIRES Wingecarribee on phone (02) 4862 1788 or 13 000 WIRES (1300 094 737).
“Even if residents spot a healthy koala, they can help out by leaving it alone, and taking down some details, which will help us re-build a database of the Shire’s northern village koala population.”
Council is recommending that any koala sightings be reported directly to the Office of Environment and Heritage’s regional operations at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Existing private landowners can also assist by dedicating corridors of bush land as part of Council’s Land for Wildlife program, to assist in native wildlife movements. For more information visit: www.wsc.nsw.gov.au/services/environment/land-for-wildlife.
Listed as an iconic species under the Office of Environment and Heritage’s new threatened species program Saving our Species, the koala is highly valued by the community and it is important we work together and do what we can to secure koala populations in the wild. For more information on the Saving our Species program visit www.environment.nsw.gov.au/savingourspecies.