'I just froze': Residents call for roo cull after vicious attack

ROO PACKS A PUNCH: The aggressive kangaroo bounced off in the opposite direction after knocking Stawell resident Gayle Barnett to the ground.
ROO PACKS A PUNCH: The aggressive kangaroo bounced off in the opposite direction after knocking Stawell resident Gayle Barnett to the ground.

A kangaroo sent a startled resident sprawling across the ground of her front yard after the native animal struck the woman’s face with its claw. 

Gayle Barnett, who wished not to be photographed, was only metres from the front door of her Leviathan Road property on Saturday morning when a kangaroo emerged from two conifer trees. 

“I just froze and I thought my God what is going to happen, and the next thing you know I was on the ground,” she said. 

“I had no time to react, it just came out, stood in front of me, put out its claw, swiped at me and I went down.”

The 69-year-old said she “played possum” while laying on the ground until the kangaroo bounced away.

“Its claw hit my cheek and brushed against my glasses, so my glasses actually saved my eye,” Mrs Barnett said. 

“Its other claw came down on my right shoulder.

“It just flattened me – i’ll remember its face for as long as I live.”

Mrs Barnett suffered a scratch to her left cheek and right shoulder. 

But the frightening encounter with the kangaroo was not her first.

“I had one go for me about four years ago, but luckily I was carrying a big bath towel in my hand and just waved it around until it took off,” Mrs Barnett said. 

Saturday’s incident came only days out from a Liberal Nationals’ vow to implement a permanent kangaroo culling program.

The state government started a trial for the processing of culled kangaroo meat for pet food in 2014.

In 2016, it was extended for two years until March 2018.

Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh announced on Wednesday the permanent program would be expanded to all rural and regional local government areas, up from the 16 taking part in the current trial.

Ripon MP Louise Staley said about 87,000 kangaroos had been processed as part of the program that would have otherwise been left in the paddock to rot.

“In plague numbers, kangaroos damage fences, trample crops and become a danger on roads,” she said.

“We all know the dangers of driving at dawn and dusk when kangaroos are most active and without proper management our community safety is at risk.”

Under the permanent program, there would not be any change to the requirement for Authority to Control Wildlife permits issued for any kangaroos used as pet food.

Mrs Barnett said she strongly supported a permanent kangaroo culling program.

“There are too many kangaroos about,” she said.

“If you drive out here in the morning there are more than a hundred in that one paddock and they’re all starving, they’re up to their bellies in our dam.”

Government figures showed kangaroo numbers were on the rise in Australia, increasing from about 27 million in 2010 to almost 45 million in 2016.

It just flattened me – i’ll remember its face for as long as I live.

Gayle Barnett

Mrs Barnett has lived in the area since 2009 and said she had noticed a spike in kangaroo numbers. 

“Kangaroos are now standing up to you,” she said. 

“You can’t trust them, they are in our front and back yard all the time so people need to be warned about what they are capable of.”

Karina Rowe who lives on the corner of Landsborough and Oliver Roads said the kangaroos were pests and often diced with death by jumping in front of oncoming traffic. 

“From the hills at Concongella until all the way into town cars and trucks are honking their horns all the way through because of all the kangaroos on the road,” she said.

“It’s an ongoing problem, they are running through and hitting cars and a pizza delivery vehicle recently hit one – it is a huge problem in this part of town.”

Ms Rowe went through three cars in less than two years due to hitting the animals.

She also said kangaroos were damaging her fences, causing her to fix them on a weekly basis.

“There are thousands of them,” she said.

“Not only am I fixing my fences on the weekly, but when they get hit on the road they crawl off into my property and die here. 

“They are eating and drinking from my horses’ troughs every day.

“They must be culled, it would not put them on any endangered list because there are millions of them.”

VicRoads’ data showed there were 797 road incidents with animals resulting in injury or fatality in the state over the past five years.

Lowan MP Emma Kealy said the figure did not include smaller prangs resulting in damage to vehicles, inconvenience to drivers, costly repair works and frightening near misses.

“I have also seen firsthand the damage that plague numbers of kangaroos are having on our ecosystem and the habitat of other native flora and fauna,” she said.

“I believe the pet food program is an effective and humane system to minimise this damage while at the same time reducing the risk on our roads.”

But the Australian Society for Kangaroos disagrees with the pet food program, calling on the RSPCA to intervene and halt the expansion of the kangaroo meat and skins industry in Victoria before its pet food program expired in March. 

Australian Society for Kangaroos president Nikki Sutterby said research by the Rural Industries Research Development Corporation showed professional shooters in the kangaroo meat and skins industry were routinely killing pouch young and using practices which breached their code of practice.

“This leads to prolonged pain and suffering for the orphans,” Ms Sutterby said.

“It also reveals that 99 per cent of dependent at-foot orphans are abandoned by professional shooters after their shoot their mother, leaving thousands of baby kangaroos to die every year from starvation, stress and predation.”

Ms Sutterby also said researchers observed shooters swinging pouch joeys by their hind legs while bashing them with an iron bar, bashing them against utility racks, stomping on their heads and decapitating them without stunning. 

“These practices are all in breach of the Code of Practice and have the potential the cause prolonged pain and suffering,” she said. 

“The RSPCA is aware of this research and has done their own research with similar findings, and as a powerful legislative body that claims to be the leading authority in animal care and protection we urge them to take action and prevent any further cruelty being inflicted on orphaned baby joeys who are falling victim to this industry in Victoria.”