22 December 2021

Have you seen this wombat? Merlin has pulled a disappearing act

| Sally Hopman
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Merlin the wombat has been missing from his wildlife carers’ home in Ainslie for about a week. Have you seen him? Photo: Facebook.

He may be grumpy, look a bit confused and will trash your garden shed if given half a chance, but Merlin the wombat needs your help.

The 22kg marsupial has gone missing from his wildlife carers’ home in Ainslie and they urgently want to find him.

He got out through what ACT Wildlife’s Lindy Butcher described as the only small gap in an otherwise securely meshed fence at his carers’ home.

“There was only a tiny little bit that wasn’t fenced in,” Lindy said. “And he found it. He burrowed underneath and made his escape.

“I really don’t know why. He had another wombat in there with him for company, lots of lovely green grass, two burrows and he was only a couple of weeks away from release back into the wild.”

But it seems he couldn’t wait.

Lindy said, contrary to popular rumour, wombats can move beyond a crawl if they want to.

“I was caring for one and he ended up travelling about 6km on two days. Wombats can be very determined, headstrong and they will walk for a long way, grazing as they go.”

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Merlin, or at least his poo – which is the best way to track a wandering wombat – was last seen at the top of Foveaux Street near the green space that leads to Mount Ainslie.

ACT Wildlife is concerned for his welfare because Ainslie and surrounds are not known for being natural wombat habitat, especially if you compound that with cars and dogs.

“The thing about wombats is that they’re really unpredictable animals,” Lindy said. “Merlin was being dehumanised in preparation for him being released back into the wild. He could be a sooky baby but he also could become quite aggressive if cornered. That’s why we ask people not to try to catch him.

“If he’s grumpy, that means we’ve done our job well because that’s his natural demeanour.

“We would just like everyone to keep a lookout for him – or his poo pellets. They’re not as big as kangaroo pellets, but they’re pretty easy to see.”

Lindy urged locals to keep an eye out for Merlin, saying the longer he goes walkabout, the more concerned she’ll be.

“If the weather stays good, he should be OK. Wombats can’t regulate their temperatures, they don’t sweat or pant so he’ll be in trouble if it gets too hot. He needs a deep burrow to keep cool.

“Probably the best time to spot him will be around dusk, that’s when they come out to graze. But we don’t want people to approach him. Just call us so we can send his carers out to bring him home. He knows their voices so he should come to them.

“But don’t try to pick him up. He bites like a chisel, and I’m speaking as the voice of experience. I wear steel-cap boots to my knees when I’m handling wombats, even ones I’ve hand-raised.”

If you see a pile of small, square pellets, newly dug holes around your shed or garage, or your garden has been rearranged and not in a good way, Merlin may be around. Call ACT Wildlife immediately on 0432 300 033.

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