SPOTTING a koala in the suburbs may be like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack — but that's what the National Parks Association of NSW is asking people to do next month.
The Great Koala Count, organised by the association, needs volunteers to record sightings of koalas between November 7 and 17.
According to the association, about 80 per cent of koalas are found outside of nature reserves and national parks.
A spokesman said knowing no koalas had been seen in a survey area was as important as surveys which found the marsupials, "as it helps to build a more complete picture of koala distribution".
As Hornsby mayor Steve Russell said, aside from being a fun thing to do, "heading out into our beautiful bushland looking for koalas is quite a nice way to spend time with your family".
Koala expert Russ Dickens doubted there were any koalas to be found in Blacktown or The Hills but "you never know," the Blacktown veterinarian and deputy mayor said.
"There's none around here, that I know of, but if you do sight one, don't tell anyone else; just the authorities — otherwise you'll get a tourist bus of 3000 to someone's backyard."
In the 1970s Dr Dickens was one of the first vets in Australia to study diseases of the koala and provide advice on their clinical management.
He is a founding board member of the Australia Koala Foundation, where he is an authority on koala research and conservation.
The foundation has a koala map of sightings and habitats — savethekoala.com/koala-map — which the public can add data to.
The map shows Liverpool as the nearest of only three Sydney councils with koalas.
The foundation believes there could be less than 80,000 koalas today.
■ Register for the Great Koala Count at npansw.org.au/data
When was the last time you saw a koala in the wild?