Dealing with food-thieving wildlife

By: David Cook, Photography by: David Cook

Teach a bird to fish and then just maybe they’ll leave our picnic hampers alone!

Dealing with food-thieving wildlife
When you head out into the bush, you’d think the worst you could expect to run into is a feral cat with a bad attitude, or an overly-friendly wombat

Ever sat next to tourist on an incoming international plane flight, full of plans to get "A hotel room overlooking that there Oolooroo rock and across the road from that Great Barrier Reef thing"? I have.

They show about as much understanding of Australia as those Contiki defectors congregating around a Bongo van stranded with a flat around Sunbury, or Liverpool or Ipswich or some other outer suburban desert, with no knowledge on how to fix it.

When you stop to help, you quickly learn they’re planning on taking this little van, which has about half a million kilometres on the odometer already, to the Bungle Bungles, and shudder when they ask, "How much further is it?"

However, no matter where they come from, they all love the wildlife. And this is surprising, considering the reputation Oz has for nasties and bities. This just goes to show you that that reputation is undeserved.


So when you head out into the bush, you’d think the worst you could expect to run into is a feral cat with a bad attitude, or an overly-friendly wombat.

But let me tell you, there’s worse. Made worse by the demeaning behaviour. What I’m referring to here is the shabby, servile, degrading panhandling which so many of our seemingly lowbrow native creatures appear to specialise in.

What is going on here? Is this some furry manifestation of the 21st century attitude that ‘the world owes me a living’? Haven’t these beasts been listening to our former federal treasurer so clearly lament that the age of entitlement is over?

Hear that, you horrid little lickspittles, hawking your cute plumage and big doe-like eyes around the campgrounds of this country? It’s not as though Australia hasn’t evolved numerous tasty berries and nuts and tubers and grubs to keep you young and healthy. That’s what your hard-working mother and father grew up on. But it’s not good enough for you, is it? Oh no, you have to come around fluffing up your gaudy feathers and carrying around those little juvenile versions of yourself on your backs or in your pouches, all the time looking on at the contents of my kitchen or my camp table, seeing what you might prefer to nab.

And as if the cute little toadies aren’t bad enough, what about the bully boys of the bird world? Take the kookaburra for instance. These birds are downright fraudulent in their behaviour. I’ve had a baby version land on a nearby branch and fluff itself up, looking all cute, and while I’m grabbing a photograph, its big buddy flies in, grabs a sausage off my plate and the two of them then settle into a nearby tree to gorge themselves on processed lamb and rosemary. Rotten little thieves. They got away with three of them, too, before I worked out what was going on.

And if that sort of skulduggery doesn’t work, they simply resort to flying in, grabbing the meat off your plate, off your fork or even out of your mouth and flying off with it. I ask you, is this right? How can we tolerate this?

And the possums! Well, if the cute act doesn’t get you, they’ll simply start climbing up your leg and on to the table to help themselves. The cheek! If you chase them away, they simply head for the interior of the camper and when you go to remove them from there, their buddy is over at the table doing whatever he wants with your dinner. And before they scarper with whatever portion of your tucker they want, they probably spit on all your meat. I wouldn’t trust them at all. They’ve got shifty eyes!

I tell you, this has gone quite far enough. I’m just glad the reptiles haven’t woken up to this lurk. It’s bad enough being outnumbered by possums or parrots, but I don’t fancy having to match wits with a herd or flock or whatever you call a gathering of death adders or saltwater crocs.

Now, of course, this sort of thing has washed off on some of the introduced beasts. Show ponies like peacocks have learned, and they’ll turn up dragging their big tails about expecting to be offered something for nothing. Next thing you know we’ll have dung beetles asking to case the porta-potti.

Don’t soften; don’t mollify them with small morsels of your meal. It will only encourage them. And if their mates see you weakening, it will draw a crowd. How many seagulls does a single chip provoke? One minute there isn’t one within a kilometre, the next you’re living a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. In fact, I am reliably told (by a backpacker in Innamincka, no less) that it was while tossing the odd chip to seagulls that he developed the idea for that movie. True story!

Give a beast an inch and they’ll take a mile.

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Check out the full feature in issue #96 January 2016 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.