Apart from disease, koalas being hit by motor vehicles are one of the main reasons for admission into care.
Adult koalas occupy a large home range which they stay in for their entire lives. Anthropogenic activities such as construction of roads, highways, shopping centres, housing estates and other human infrastructure have major implications for wild koala populations.
Busy and even quiet roads built within a koalas home range become obstacles that they have no choice but to cross. Koalas require a number of trees for food, shelter and mating and these are often “on the other side of the road”.
Koalas do not have road sense (neither do domestic dogs for that matter) as evolutionary changes to behaviour takes thousands of years to occur.
A koala moving from A to B across a road is at great risk of being hit by a moving vehicle with the majority of motorists not even seeing the koala until it is too late.
Sadly a percentage of motorists who do hit koalas keep driving, leaving other sympathetic motorists to actually pull up and render assistance to the injured animal.
Sometimes koalas can lay on the sides of roads unseen for days before being found or die.
Depending on the speed of travel and which part of the vehicle actually impacts the koala can make a great deal of difference to the level of trauma the koala suffers.
The majority of high speed impacts kill the koala outright, but even impacts at low speed can inflict mortality.
Koala patients that arrive into a care facility alive can exhibit everything from fractured jaws, skulls, brain injury, fractured limbs, fractured spines, internal bleeding to de gloving of the skin from being dragged along the road.
Koalas suffering serious traumatic injuries usually require surgery to repair fractures and they require long term intensive care. Even with the best of care, many of them still die.
Some injuries are so severe that keeping koalas alive with the goal “to give them a life, becomes an animal welfare issue and these koalas require immediate euthanasia.
Koalas are a wild animal and we must respect their wildness.
Not all is lost though as we do have successful treatments of some motor vehicle impact injuries followed with the release of the koala.
So what can be done to reduce motor vehicle impact injuries to koalas?
- Slow down in known koala habitat areas (especially where signs are erected) and watch the sides of the road for emerging wildlife
- Campaign for lowering of speed limits and good signage in these areas
- Keep your nearest wildlife groups contact details on your phone
- Stay with the injured koala until help arrives. Where possible do not attempt to pick the koala up as this could further the injuries sustained. Also the koala is likely to defend itself and you could be injured as a result
- If a koala remains on the road injured please use a big blanket or a jacket to wrap around the koala to get it off the road to a safer location
- Please do not “put the koala up the nearest tree”. A koala hit by a car must be assessed by a veterinarian or experienced wildlife carer to determine the level of injury
- Even a seriously injured koala driven by fear and adrenaline can climb a tree. This koala will still require immediate assessment.