Deb Fowler’s passion for wildlife rehabilitation is spread across the Goulburn Valley as a point-of-call for animal rescues, foster carers and transport connections.
Alongside business partner Kirsty Ramadan, the pair run Bohollow Wildlife Shelter and have been involved in wildlife rescues for more than 20 years.
Ms Fowler takes in what she calls ‘‘the soft fluffies’’ including possums and kangaroos and with Ms Ramadan taking in the raptors and reptiles, the shelter covers a wide range of animals.
The shelter is open 24 hours a day and is a registered not-for-profit organisation.
Ms Fowler stressed the need to call for assistance when people saw an animal acting strangely.
‘‘A lot of the time we get phone calls hours after they have seen the animal, so my message is if you think it’s strange or don’t think it’s normal behaviour, ring us because we can come out and assess or ask questions — even send photos,’’ Ms Fowler said.
The shelter gets calls about all animals, great and small, and a team of volunteers can perform rescues.
‘‘It’s not just a matter of bringing an animal into care, it’s not just orphans or young animals, it’s making the tough decisions on the best outcome for the animal,’’ Ms Fowler said.
‘‘If it’s detrimental to the animal or if the animal can’t be 100 per cent (prepared) to go back into the wild then we wouldn’t continue with the care,’’ she said.
Ms Fowler said it was a personal love that determined how many animals she could take into care at once.
‘‘It’s a personal thing, it’s capacity, it’s finance, especially money; it’s so expensive to do this, so your capacity is what you can afford in time also,’’ she said.
Phoning the shelter direct gives the team a better understanding of the situation, what is needed and location directions.
‘‘If people can’t stay with an animal, if they can get a bag, ribbon, old belt, anything they can tie to a tree as a marker — that really helps — or try and plot how far you are from a cross roads,’’ Ms Fowler said.
Bohollow is always looking for more volunteers to help out, including transporters and foster carers.
‘‘We love it if people can transport to us or for us because it takes up a lot of time if we have to go out and get the animals and we’re always looking for foster carers,’’ Ms Fowler said.
‘‘If anyone is interested in foster caring, I’m looking for foster carers, They are more than welcome to come and have a chat with me, but the rule is they have to volunteer with me for at least a year before I take them on,’’ she said.
Ms Fowler said in the busy season she could spend up to $400 a week on fuel.
‘‘It’s the travel that is really expensive; in the heart of the season I could fill up my car two to three times a week,’’ she said.
Bohollow Wildlife Shelter is licensed with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning as a wildlife shelter.
‘‘You can’t keep any animal that’s come in from the wild, that’s totally 100 per cent illegal,’’ Ms Fowler said.
‘‘What we do is make the decision to either euthanase or pass them on to another shelter if we can’t look after them properly and rehabilitate them back into the wild; they’re the choices, there is nothing else I can do with them.
She is presently caring for a kangaroo named Rooey, who will soon be released back into the wild.
‘‘I love the kangaroos, they are beautiful animals with unique personalities,’’ she said.
Ms Fowler said her maternal instincts kicked in when caring for the kangaroos.
‘‘I suppose they’re a much more maligned species, and I think that’s really unfair, so my mother instincts come in and I just want to look after them and try and rehab them to give them a second chance,’’ she said.
Ms Fowler said Bohollow was one of the largest wildlife shelters in the state.
‘‘We do a lot of animals, last year I would have rescued 300 to 400 animals for the year and I know Kirsty did more than 1000,’’ she said.
■For more information, to donate or for wildlife assistance, visit www.bohollowwildlife.com, follow Bohollow Wildlife Shelter Inc on Facebook or phone Deb Fowler on 0418 328 671 or Kirsty Ramadan on 0447 636 953.
- Madeleine Caccianiga