When Gloucester's Alison Lyon set out for her morning hike up the Bucketts, she never expected she'd be sharing her rest time with a koala.
"I'm training for a hike in Patagonia and I'm desperately trying to get my fitness up after all the hot weather," Alison said.
Her routine has been to complete two circuits of walking up the steep incline to the Gloucester Lions Club shelter and back down. On Tuesday morning, January 21, she was just getting ready to complete her final descent when she spotted something out of the corner of her eye.
"I thought, 'what's that crawling toward me?'," she recalled.
When she saw the koala coming her way, she wasn't quite sure what do.
"It put its paw on my foot. I thought it was going to crawl up me," she laughed.
This British-born, avid walker had never found herself in this situation before. Being a member of the Gloucester Environment Group, she takes part in regular walks around the region and beyond, but in all of her years hiking, she has never been this close to a koala in the wild.
"I've been on heaps of hikes but this has never happened before," Alison said.
She's seen koalas in the trees around different properties in the area but to spend time with one up close was pretty special. She took her phone out to snap a few photos expecting the koala would get scared and leave, but instead it sat down next to her.
"It was surreal experience," she said.
Alison said the koala wasn't distressed and it didn't make any noise, it just hung out with her for about 10 minutes.
"I was a little bit late for work," she giggled. And who can blame her, after such a rare experience..
When she got back down the Bucketts, she searched koala behaviour online and sent the photo to a veterinarian friend of hers. What she learned was this kind of behaviour was quite unusual and that perhaps the koala was unwell and maybe even dehydrated. Her friend told her she did the right thing by leaving it be.
According to Aussie Ark curator Hayley Shute, koalas generally do stay up in the trees for the majority of the time, however they will venture down to move to other trees, or in times of drought to a water source close by.
"We have had fire and drought in the area and so that will also impact the koala movements as they are in search of a better food source," Hayley explained.
Aussie Ark's advice is to never approach a wild animal and leave it as it is if not visibly injured or unwell.
"If you are concerned you can report it to your local wildlife care organisation and they may send someone out to have a look and assess the individual animal and area," Hayley recommended.
Local group Koalas in Care advise people should take a picture if they have some reason of concern and send it to the 24 hour koala rescue number on 0439 406 770, along with your name and the location of the koala.
"Information regarding our local wildlife is really important and so any interactions or observations the public have should be noted, especially for a key species such as the koala, no matter how insignificant you may think it is," Hayley said.
Aussie Ark is a not-for-profit organisation that has vision of creating a long-term future for threatened Australian species by securing wild sanctuaries to conserve native wildlife, free from unnatural predation.
Koalas In Care is a not-for-profit organisation based in Taree, NSW caring for koalas in the Mid Coast region.