More than a million native animals may have perished in Victoria\'s fire inferno, a wildlife expert says.
The massive effort to rescue animals caught in the fire has begun with triage centres set up to assess injured wildlife at staging posts at Kilmore, Whittlesea and Redesdale near Bendigo.
The animals are then being treated and assessed by vets at nearby shelters, who make the agonising decision about which ones need to be euthanased.
Those animals still able to may wait several weeks before walking out of fire-affected forest, Gayle Chappell from the Hepburn Wildlife Shelter said.
Ms Chappell is among those working to rescue the animals and says the extent of the devastation may never be known.
"It (the animal death toll) will be in the hundreds of thousands, possibly millions," Ms Chappell said.
"We are not just talking the animals we are familiar with, there are gliders and all sorts of possums, antechinus (a mouse-like marsupial), bandicoots, birds - there is so much wildlife.
"It is devastating, the actual size of the destruction is devastating to a number of wildlife populations."
It is feared endangered populations of gliders, owls and lizards may be among the dead.
For those that have survived, the recovery process will be long and slow.
"They have lost their homes too and they are not going to be rebuilt in a year or two years, it is a much longer-term picture," Ms Chappell said.
"You can\'t reconstruct a forest."
The fires also destroyed four wildlife shelters including Stella Reid\'s Wildhaven shelter at Kinglake.
Ms Chappell said Ms Reid escaped with her life, but the animals were not so lucky.
"It has been a real blow for everybody I think. That is what has really brought it home for everybody, hearing that Stella Reid\'s place was totalled and all her animals ... they weren\'t able to get any animals out at all."
RSPCA moves in to help distressed animals
The RSPCA is gearing up to take care of family pets, livestock and wildlife hurt in the ferocious Victorian bushfires.
RSPCA chief executive Maria Mercurio says that as the areas devastated by bushfire open up only then will Australians understand the full brunt of the tragedy on animals.
She said RSPCA shelters and inspectors have been working around the clock to be ready to provide emergency assistance to animals.
"We are able to offer short term emergency accommodation and veterinary care to pets at our shelters across Victoria," Ms Mercurio said.
"Some of our regional shelters have been assisting with emergency accommodation since Saturday."
Many animals which have managed to survive the fires have been without food or water since Saturday.
Ms Mercurio said government departments and other animal welfare agencies will provide emergency care to wildlife, companion animals and livestock while delivering pet food, much of it donated, to relief centres across Victoria.
She said if people are able to support the emergency relief effort, they can complete the assistance form on the website www.rspcavic.org detailing the support they can offer.
"For those not affected by the bushfires and who might be considering adopting a pet, now is an ideal time as it will free up kennels and allow us to take in more animals for emergency accommodation," Ms Mercurio said.