Two dogs attacked a bush wallaby at the ‘no dog area’ of the beach, approximately 250m north of Elements of Byron Resort, last Wednesday.
‘As I started towards the beach a wallaby burst out of the dune and about one to two meters behind it were two dogs barking and growling,’ said Steve Medcalf who walks on the beach every day.
‘The wallaby stayed on the dunes as much as it could with the two dogs on its tail until it got to the fence at Elements and then it went onto the beach and into Belongil Creek. From there the wallaby hopped out into the ocean and went about 100m out with the dogs in pursuit.’
By the time Steve walked up the beach and was level with the wallaby one of the dogs had it by the ear while the other had it by the throat.
Steve headed into the water with a stick yelling out at the dogs who appeared to be border collie/kelpie crosses. One let the wallaby go and swam back to the beach while the one who had it by the neck kept a hold of the wallaby.
‘I got the other dog off,’ said Steve but pointed out that ‘it is not the dogs fault. It is the people who own the dogs that are responsible.’
The wallaby was being swept north towards Brunswick Heads and Steve realised he needed to get back into the water and save the wallaby.
‘I went out and got him – he was pretty exhausted. Once I got hold of him he was pretty calm. By the time I got him back to shore he was getting pretty heavy.’
With the help of his friend Louis they got the wallaby onto the dune and lay him down quietly and put a towel over him.
‘Then we made sure there were no dogs in the area.’
They called WIRES and council to report what had happened.
A couple who had stopped to take photos of the rescue saw one of the dogs go into a white van in the car park.
‘I was still furious so I got Louis and another person and we confronted the man in the van. We had strong words with him and told him the rangers were on their way. ‘
It is believed that the owner, a visitor from Victoria, had three dogs that he had let out to roam while he slept in his van.
WIRES came to check the wallaby a few hours later but it had crawled away and they couldn’t find it.
‘It is essential for the wellbeing of wildlife that people keep their dogs restrained on beaches,’ said a spokesperson for WIRES.
‘It is very important to remember if you do encounter a wallaby that has been chased into the sea that all attempts are made to minimise stress to the animal. Macropods (being wallabies, pademelons and kangaroos) develop a stress response called Myopathy that can lead to their death within 2-14 days after the stressful incident.
‘It is natural for us to think that because the dog did not catch the wallaby, no harm has been done. However, the wallaby may still face a painful and slow death.
‘Wallabies can swim quite well, and in some situations a wallaby that has swum out in the sea or a river will find its way back to land. Each situation is different, however, and some wallabies may become exhausted. If it has been pulled from the water then cover it with a towel and move all people and dogs well away from the animal to give it time to recover. Importantly, call WIRES immediately on 66281898 so that a specialist rescuer can attend.’