Living with Skippy

Of course kangaroos are associated with Australia, and most Aussies are comfortable about sharing the country with skippies (as we sometimes call them). But visitors from overseas can be quite unsure about what to expect. Will there be roos hopping around in suburban streets? Well no, that’s unlikely, although you might see some on golf courses (where there’s usually lots of nice green grass). Could I be attacked by kangaroos? Again no, not unless you corner one. But if you do get into a stoush with a kangaroo, you should know that a large kangaroo is capable of causing serious injury or even death. See http://www.amazingaustralia.com.au/animals/kangaroo_attacks.htm

The kangaroo population of Australia is variously estimated at up to about 50 or 60 million, with the great majority of these living in rural and remote areas. So that’s more than two for every person in the country. Commercial hunters are licensed to kill a few million kangaroos a year (which distresses some people), and kangaroo meat for human consumption is available in most supermarkets.

Roo sign

(Photo by Ole Hartling)

Tens of thousands of kangaroos are killed on the roads each year. When travelling in remote areas, most drivers are used to keeping an eye out for kangaroos suddenly jumping out in front of them, especially at dawn and dusk, and many vehicles have strong metal “roo bars” (or bull bars) fitted at the front to (hopefully) minimise damage to the vehicle when this happens. But the risk occurs not only in remote areas – it’s been reported that kangaroos account for about 90% of animal-related road accidents in Canberra, the nation’s capital.

Visitors to Australia sometimes say things like “We’ve travelled on a bus all the way from Darwin to Alice Springs, and we haven’t seen a single kangaroo. We thought there were lots of them. Where are they?” Well, the simple answer is they’re not standing around beside major highways. Skippies aren’t stupid, you know! Get yourselves onto some quieter and/or unsealed roads, and you may see quite a few of them, although bear in mind that in warm weather, they’ll probably be resting in the shade somewhere in the middle of the day, and also there are of course some areas without many kangaroos. As some of my passengers have been heard to say, “There’s some more kangaroos. Boring!!”

roo in grass

A few years ago, I was asked by an American child, “Why don’t kangaroos just walk? It’s a lot easier than hopping.” I think he was contemplating how difficult it would be for him to hop all the way to school. I had to reflect on that for a moment, but soon realised that kangaroos can’t “just walk”, that is, they can’t move their back legs independently. The two large legs always move in tandem. But it’s said to be a very energy-efficient mode of travel, and they can certainly get up a good speed – 40 kph can be sustained for at least two kms, and up to 70 kph for short distances. Go skippy!

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About dazzlerplus

Writing about the things that interest me helps me to discover what I think. One of my loves is the Australian Outback, and I travel out there often, and when possible take friends with me.
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7 Responses to Living with Skippy

  1. Jo says:

    Unfortunately they can attack but rarely. I was in an area where the kangaroos had obviously been fed lots of leftover picnic scraps. As I walked to put some rubbish in a bin a large male came up behind me and put his front paws around my face cutting my lip and forehead with his claws. However having said that, I have been up close to many, many kangaroos and that was the only time I have ever been ‘attacked’ and I think he was really just wanting to investigate what I had in my hands.
    But then I was also bitten by a possum a couple of days ago so maybe it is just me. 🙂

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Jo, I’m sure that skippy didn’t mean to hurt you. As you say, he just thought you had some goodies for him. And I’m sure your husband likes to put his paws around you occasionally.

      As for the possum biting you, that was not good behaviour. Bad possum!

      What about echidnas? Have they given you any trouble?

  2. kate b says:

    Great stuff as always BD. Informative, compassionate, inclusive and gently funny.

    I was however rather shocked to detect a small typo

    “We’ve travelled on a bus all the way from Darwin to Alice Springs, and we’ve haven’t seen a single kangaroo.

    In shock
    Your loving daughter
    Kate

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Oh, the shame! To be outed in public like this ……. and by my own daughter …….. woe is me!
      I have of course now fixed it, but Kate’s message will remain here for eternity (or as long as WordPress is in business — whichever is the longer) as a salutory warning to those who pass by that Bobby Dazzler was not infallible.
      I will probably be referred to — with a snigger — as Aussie Mandias, but I won’t object to that — he was a desert bloke too.

  3. Lavinia Ross says:

    Bear, deer and moose can be a problem here, attacking people on occasion. The latest one though, was a friend who was attacked by his own billy goat. The buck had been placed with the does for breeding. After what seemed like a reasonable amount of time, the farmer thought he was “done”, but the billy goat had other plans. He wasn’t done with the girls, yet! The goat lowered his head and hit both the farmer’s legs with his horns, knocking him back into a 6 x 6 support pole. He thought his legs were broken. The goat then knocked him on the ground, knocking him out. The farmer woke up, to find Billy staring into his eyes. He thought he was done for! Then, as if old Billy realized he had properly educated the human, he backed off and let him up. Those old goats can be pretty feisty!

  4. Sherry Cook says:

    Just got around to reading your blog about skippies. And to add to the info about legs moving in tandem (which I hadn’t realised until you pointed it out) is that they also can not move backward or sideways – only forward. Hope things are going well for you and Judy. A social occasion is called for in the near future. Will be in touch.

    Sherry

    >

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Thanks, Sherry. I’ve heard it said that the kangaroo and emu are both on the Australian coat of arms because they can only move forward. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to guarantee that this is true for the nation also. We might well do better at moving forward if we had a few kangaroos and emus in Parliament instead of some of the people we’ve got there at the moment.

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