Wombat's severe injuries after being left in trap for days: 'Extreme distress'

NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe has contacted police, asking for more information.

There are calls for an investigation after a wombat was trapped, then left to “suffer” for days without food or water on a NSW property.

Images show the animal’s leg crushed within the jaws of a trap before he was rescued. Others taken during the healing process highlight “severe crush injuries” including dead tissue and infection, which were treated by a vet.

Yahoo News Australia can reveal information has been requested from police by NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe in relation to the matter.

Two images of the wombat with its leg trapped.
The wombat was found trapped on a NSW property in 2021. Source: Supplied

The wombat’s injuries occurred in August 2021 and were so severe he took almost two months to recover. Concerns were renewed by Animal Justice Party MP Emma Hurst who questioned why state authorities did not fine or prosecute those responsible for trapping the common wombat - a protected species.

"If no substantive action was taken, there needs to be a full investigation as to why," she said. "This wombat would have suffered enormously. To have been deserted, frightened for days caught in a trap and left with long-term wounds is simply unacceptable."

Why questions are now being asked about the trapped wombat

The incident occurred in in Mulloon on the Southern Tablelands. It predates the election of the state Labor government and the appointment of Ms Sharpe to the environment portfolio, whom Ms Hurst wrote to on Friday, imploring her to investigate the matter.

“I am writing to express my concern about the apparent failure of NSW authorities to take appropriate action in response to an act of cruelty against a wombat,” she wrote.

Three images of the wombat's leg showing it gradually healing.
Photos show the wombat during his healing process, which took almost two months. Source: Supplied

In her letter, Ms Hurst alleges that despite witnesses to the incident never being asked to provide statements, the investigation by National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and NSW Police appeared to have been finalised. She later said she was hopeful there would be a "full investigation" because there was a new minister in the environment portfolio.

A spokesperson for Ms Sharpe told Yahoo on Thursday it would respond to Ms Hurst once she has further details on the matter. “Minister Sharpe has requested information from the Minister for Police regarding the details of their investigation and the reason they decided not to prosecute,” they said.

Why authorities say they didn’t investigate the trapped wombat

While trapping the species is illegal in NSW, experts believe images of the trapped wombat show it was caught near a fence line on what appears to be a wombat path with diggings nearby.

NPWS told Yahoo NSW police led the investigation into the trapped wombat and it was advised, following an investigation, that it had “determined not to issue any fines or pursue prosecution”.

NSW Police said after Monaro Police District received a report it conducted “extensive inquiries” but determined “no further police action would be taken”.

Veterinarian Dr Lucy Fish began treating the wombat, affectionately named Trapper, in early September 2021. “It took several weeks of bandaging and repeated surgical wound management under anaesthesia before he had healed enough to be released,” she told Yahoo.

Is it still legal to trap animals in NSW?

Unlike in Queensland where steel-jaw traps are still permitted, NSW only allows those with padding.

While trapping native species other than dingoes is illegal, the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) recommends devices are inspected frequently when used to control other animals.

“Traps must be inspected at least daily to prevent suffering and possible death from exposure, thirst, starvation, predation and/or shock,” its rabbit trapping code of practice recommends.

When used as a form of animal control, Dr Fish described traps as “outdated and incredibly cruel”.

“They are indiscriminate so have a high likelihood of catching native wildlife, and in my opinion should be completely illegal,” she said. “A trapped wild animal will necessarily suffer from extreme distress, pain from the trap itself, and suffer from further injuries caused by trying to escape.”

Dr Fish questions why traps are still permitted when DPI has conceded they can cause injuries. "These range from swelling of the foot and lacerations to dislocations and fractures," it warns in its wild dog handbook.

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