WILDLIFE WARRIOR: A grazier’s work is never done, and sometimes involves tree-climbing to rescue wildlife. cont
IT SEEMS heroes and victims really do come in all shapes and sizes, and the actions of a Central Highlands cattle producer serve as a telling example that it is not just humans that need a helping hand in these trying times.
On December 31, Mathew Paine, a humble grazier from Myola station west of Springsure, made the startling discovery of a large and live echidna clinging for dear life 3.6m up a Coolabah tree at the Nogoa River crossing on the Tambo Road.
“Echidnas are not able to climb trees, but they do have the ability to float very comfortably in floodwater, so I’m guessing it floated down the river until it found a suitable tree to cling on to,” Mr Paine said.
Being five days after the flood peaked, it appeared the prickly critter had been hanging on for quite some time.
Mr Paine spent a long day repairing his flood-damaged fencing with contract musterer Tahnee Loudon, and at about 6.30pm, as a last job for the day, they decided to check the river height on the Nogoa crossing at Tambo Road.
“That was when I noticed something stuck about 12 feet up a Coolabah tree,” Mr Paine said.
“We soon realised it was an echidna and Tahnee’s first response was ‘do you think he is still alive?’
“It had been a long day and not meaning to be unsympathetic to the little bloke’s plight - I quietly thought to myself, ‘I hope not’, and furthermore, I was not looking for any reason to have to climb a tree that was leaning over running water.
“But as luck would have it, just as we were about to depart the echidna moved.
“It was then too late, I had a witness and I had to commit to the rescue.
“Climbing trees is certainly not my speciality, but the task was attacked with a certain amount of haste and not much skill.”
After some gentle coaxing with a stick, the nervous marsupial was brought safely down to the ground.
Mr Paine said the next problem he faced was trying to exit the tree with some grace, while ensuring he didn’t land on the newly rescued comrade.
“We decided we should show my wife and children our new best friend,” Mr Paine said.
“So arriving home just after dark, the entire family gathered to watch the release.
“I would not have said he seemed overly grateful but it is hard to tell with his type.
“I guess it will now live a long and happy life on the sand ridge around the Myola house.”
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