The unusual pairing of animal welfare veterinarians and a part time deer hunter has found a rescue alternative for wildlife injured in the Victorian bushfires.
Australian Veterinary Association members Elaine Ong and Chris Barton, and RSPCA Inspector Maree Crabtree, have been working closely with Simon Perry and his two beagles, Mia and Houndog, to find injured wildlife suffering from burns and now, some weeks after the fires, starvation.
"We are still finding wildlife, particularly kangaroos and deer that have been badly injured in the fires and are very distressed because they can't find feed or water," Dr Ong said.
"We needed an effective way to capture these animals, assess their condition and treat or euthanase them.
"Unfortunately, once darted the animals tend to run off before the anaesthesia takes effect. For some animals especially kangaroos and wallabies the dart can take between five and ten minutes to work and they are able to move quite a distance away.
"Around Humevale the area is very hilly and locating the darted animals was difficult. This is where Simon and his two beagles came in. They live locally and know the area, and helped us find where the animals had gone.
"Simon volunteered the dogs and his time to help us out with this really distressing work."
"I don't like to see animals suffering in this way, with their feet burned and unable to find feed or water," Simon said. "Using my dogs to help the vets and rescuers find these animals means less are dying in pain or of starvation."
"By the end of the day the dogs come out completely black from ash but Simon rewarded them well with dog food," Dr Ong said.
"Simon and the dogs were very helpful. Without Mia and Houndog's help we wouldn't have been able to find those animals we darted as quickly as we did to treat them or humanely euthanase them."