'We get calls all the time': The subtle but deadly danger of backyard pools

With temperatures already soaring ahead of a predicted hot summer, many of us will be spending plenty of time in backyard pools in the coming months.

But spare a thought for our furry, scaly and slimy friends who end up in them by accident, often with fatal consequences.

On Wednesday, firefighters in western Sydney were called to the rescue of a kangaroo from a backyard pool after the roo took a dip but soon became tired and couldn’t get out. The week before an Adelaide woman filmed a kangaroo having an anxious swim in her own backyard pool.

“Stressed and disoriented kangaroos may flee across roads, into fences, or suburban backyards, where they can damage property, injure themselves, or end up in swimming pools,” warns the ACT’s recent Kangaroo Management Plan.

Per capita, Australians have more pools than any other country in the world, posing summer relief for households but a danger for wildlife.

As ongoing drought conditions in much of the country push wildlife closer to residential areas looking for a drink and somewhere to cool off, backyard pools can pose a danger for native animals.

In February, the danger to wildlife was highlighted when a photo of a koala at the bottom of a Gold Coast pool made headlines around the country.

A koala seen waterlogged and drowned at the bottom of a pool.
Wildlife workers say it's important for pool owners to make sure animals can get out. Source: Wildcare Australia

It’s not just kangaroos and koalas, but a whole range of diverse wildlife from birds and bandicoots to reptiles including snakes, that can fall victim to the backyard pool, according to the Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) whose workers often get the rescue call.

“It’s a huge thing for us, we get calls about it all the time,” WIRES Rescue Office Manager Kristie Harris told Yahoo News Australia.

While animals like koalas and kangaroos attract the most media attention, less beloved animals can also suffer. “Pools can be a trap for snakes causing them to swim around to the point of exhaustion before drowning,” the WIRES pool safety page says.

“WIRES has also rescued many birds, lizards, bandicoots and even gliders that were found exhausted and waterlogged in pools. The animals frequently have to be brought into care and monitored for possible water inhalation and pneumonia.”

Pool safety devices for animals

If you own a swimming pool there are a number of devices you buy or even fashion yourself to help various animals escape your pool.

For example there was a well known Kickstarter campaign that led to a widely popular product which essentially acts as a floating ramp to allow frogs the ability to get out of backyard pools. The product, which retails for about $20, claims to have saved more than a million little frogs over the years.

Pool owners are urged to think about providing a way out for local wildlife. Source: FrogLog/WIRES
Pool owners are urged to think about providing a way out for local wildlife. Source: FrogLog/WIRES

If you don’t want to spend much money, there are some pretty simple things you can do to assist wildlife such as tying a bodyboard to one end of the pool which can act as a floating shelf, where exhausted animals can rest.

Wildlife rescue workers also suggest pool owners drape something over the edge such as a rope to give animals something to grab hold of and climb out, or something that can be used as a ramp.

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