When wombats are very young and taken into care, they fight you, knowing life is different from being with their mum. For around two weeks they growl, attempt to bite, lunge and fight you all the way when trying to feed them. But after two weeks, it’s like a switch. The fighting stops, they look straight into your eyes and you can feel them scrutinising you, then this look in their eyes that says, ‘oh so you’re my mum now’, and after this they feed, snuggle up and are so committed to you with their love, wanting to be with you at whatever cost. The transition of love is very visible.
Mudsey came into care on November 24, 2014. She had spent all night in her mother’s pouch under a thick soup of clay. Her mother had been kicked in the head by a horse during the night, and had attempted to return to her burrow, which was situated in the side of a dam on a property. The weather had been awful, and torrential rain had been constant for days, leaving a boggy clay soup leading uphill to her burrow. Weakened from her head injury she frantically tried to get to the entrance but kept slipping down into the clay, finally digging herself under the mud and, exhausted, ceased trying.
The following morning the property owner, found just her front half visible, and called Wildlife Rescue South Coast to rescue her.
After assessing the wombat, she was pulled free from the thick clay barely alive. It was sadly not possible for her to survive the head injury sustained, and she was euthanised.
On turning her over, amazingly, in her pouch, was a small joey, completely covered in mud. The mud was filling the pouch she was hidden in, and was inside her nose and mouth, so we did not expect her to have survived, but on removing her, she was alive! She was washed, dried, and named Mudsey. She weighed 1.5 kgs.
Mudsey was immediately transferred to me, as a regional WRSC wombat coordinator, and the owner of the Wisdom Wombat Refuge, for ongoing care until her release. Mudsey made great progress during her 18 months with the Refuge in Kangaroo Valley NSW.
In quiet moments, especially when the care wombats are all gathered around together chomping and munching on grass, it is amazingly soothing, just the steady noise, and their contentment brings enormous peace. I often sit when troubled, or upset, and find they give me strength. I have three helpers, all from different walks of life, a nurse, a designer and a housewife, aged from 50 to 70 and all say they love to sit with them and listen to them eating, and how restful it makes them feel.
Whilst growing up with her new friends Tilly and Rosie, Mudsey became a beautiful pale grey adolescent wombat, and has been a source of amusement and fun to care for and raise. She has oodles of personality, and despite her sad beginning has always been affectionate, playful and happy. Mudsey was released into the wild on 27th April weighing 24 kilograms, onto a beautiful private property, which has a ‘soft release’ system. This allows Mudsey to live under human protection within a burrow, but having the freedom to leave it and explore her new home. She can return to the safety of this burrow until she has established her geographic memory of her new territory, left her scats for the locals to get used to, and eventually dig herself a burrow out in the property where she will reside as a wild wombat. It is common for these wild wombats to remain on the chosen property and reproduce, often arriving back to the property owners to display their own joeys before returning to the wild.
In November 2018 Mudsey came back with her own first little male joey in tow. We named him Smokey. A wonderful outcome from a tragic start to her life.
WRSC wombat carer.
Director of Wombat Protection Society
Wisdom Wombat Refuge
Kangaroo Valley NSW
Audio produced by Gretchen Miller, sound engineering by Judy Rapley.
Thanks to oscaraudiogeek for the useful scuffling in dirt recording!
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