It’s a question many Aussies who travel get asked and it’s true under certain conditions, drought being one of them.
On Monday this week, a lone kangaroo was causing havoc in the streets of Dubbo. It was apparently one of a mob that’s taken up residence inside the old RAAF base, and it kept the mobile phone of WIRES volunteer Donna Burton running hot all morning.
“The trouble is people feed them. Weetbix, carrots; these things are not a kangaroo’s natural diet and harms them. Secondly they can be dangerous. People need to stop feeding them because they will keep coming back. They’re not pets, they’re wild animals,” she told Dubbo Photo News.
As a sign of how short staffed WIRES is at the moment, Mrs Burton is a resident of Coonabarabran on call for Dubbo.
A staff member from Geoff Richards Panel Beating also told Dubbo Photo News they’d seen a dead kangaroo near Elston Park last week.
Probably from the same mob, but a sight that’s increasingly common in and out of town, the greater the drought grips surrounding countryside.
Apparently, it’s been ten years since Geoff Richards Panel Beating has seen the current number of front-end-damaged vehicles coming into their workshop from kangaroo collisions.
There have also been reports from motorists out past Narromine that the groups of kangaroos aren’t just mobs, they’re groups of 50 to 100 kangaroos.
It is true the kangaroos coming closer to the greener pastures of Dubbo’s front lawns and golf course, are the top of the kangaroo food chain, having survived this long in harsh conditions.
But with no end to the drought in sight and farmers’ hands tied by a beaurocracy that has issued kill quotas in the name of sustainability, the downside is farmers are dealing with the issue of no water or feed for the stock that sustains them (and the country), while having to share what meagre rations they have with hungry and thirsty kangaroos too.
Commercial kangaroo hunters don’t want the red tape to relax as the market becomes more competitive for them.
It can be argued that farmers know the capacity of their land better than most and should be free to manage it.
Office of Environment and Heritage statistics show that on the Western Plains in 2013 there were 8 million greys, while only 3.8 million last year.
Reds peaked in 2014 and 2016 with just over 6 million, but that wound back last year to 5.1 million kangaroos.
Commercial quotas on the Western Plains is set at 17 per cent of the estimated red population (currently around 867,000) and 15 per cent of the estimated eastern and western grey populations (currently around 570,000 roos).
So with about 8.9 million ‘roos out there (just in the Western Plains), and 7.4 million left after commercial culling and which statistically has not met the quota in recent times, it would appear the population is sustained and there’s room to remove the excess.
Across NSW, it’s estimated there are 17.5 million kangaroos.
On top of drought conditions and bureaucratic juggling, winter is the riskiest time for crashes involving animals, with a spike in insurance claims over June, July and August.
“In winter, animals are on the move looking for food at sunrise and sunset and, combined with cooler weather conditions and reduced visibility, the chances of hitting an animal are more likely. Wildlife is unpredictable and can appear out of nowhere, so it’s important to slow down and be aware of your environment,” NRMA Insurance research director Robert McDonald said.
Dubbo is an animal collision hotspot. NRMA Insurance figures show the 2017 recorded animal collisions for Dubbo were 197, Mudgee 143 and Goulburn 123. NSW has had the highest rate of animal collisions in the country with over 12,000 claims received in 2017, a nine per cent increase from 2016.
“Colliding with a kangaroo is not only traumatic for both the animal and driver but often causes considerable damage to cars and can also result in serious injury (to the people in the vehicle),” Mr McDonald warned.
Contemporary car fenders are designed to pop back out after taking a knock, but a kangaroo can cause much internal damage.
“What might seem like $2000 worth of damage on the outside, can be $10,000 worth of damage on the inside,” a Geoff Richards Panel Beating spokesperson said.
Kangaroos still top the list of animals most likely to be involved in a road accident, followed by dogs, wombats, cattle and cats.
Tips for driving on country roads
- Be vigilant when driving at dawn, dusk or night-time
- Reduce your speed inside sign posted wildlife areas
- If you hit the animal and safety permits, you should try to help by moving it to the side of the road to prevent further crashes
- Don’t force the animal to eat or drink and contact a local veterinarian or a wildlife rescue centre such as WIRES.
- Source: NRMA
Yvette Aubusson-Foley is a Dubbo journo, who spent time living and raising her family in the USA, but has now returned to her home town.