While kangaroos are an important part of Victoria's natural ecosystems, they require management in some situations.
Kangaroos, particularly the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, are one of Australia's most recognisable and well known native animals. They form an integral part of our natural ecosystems, playing an important role in promoting regeneration of native plants and reducing the fuel load in forests and grasslands.
Kangaroos and wallabies belong to the 'super-family' macropodidae (from the Greek word for 'large foot'). There are nine species of macropodidae family in Victoria. The two main groups are the potoroo species and the kangaroo and wallaby species.
The arrival of European settlers has had a significant impact on macropods in Victoria, through habitat destruction or modification, the removal of predators, and the addition of introduced species like foxes and rabbits. Several Victorian species, such as the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Western Grey Kangaroo and Swamp Wallaby have drastically increased in numbers due to improved pastures and reliable water sources.
Victoria's kangaroo population survey
The first ever Victorian kangaroo population survey was conducted in September 2017.
Aerial surveys were used to estimate the kangaroo population in 58 Victorian Local Government Areas (LGA). These estimates exclude LGAs located entirely (or almost entirely) within highly urbanised parts of the Melbourne metropolitan area. The estimates also excluded thickly forested parts of Victoria due to the unreliability of kangaroo detection in those areas.
Due to the difficulty in distinguishing between Eastern and Western Grey Kangaroos during aerial surveys, ground surveys were conducted in the west of the state to estimate the relative proportions of each species in areas where their ranges overlap. These proportions were then applied to the aerial survey data to provide separate estimates for both Eastern and Western Grey Kangaroos.
The overall kangaroo population in Victoria was estimated to be 1,442,000 (95% confidence interval; 976,000 – 2,132,000 kangaroos) at the time of the survey. This is a conservative estimate of the total kangaroo population as thickly forested and urban areas of Victoria were excluded from the survey.
Ideally kangaroo surveys should be conducted every few years to monitor the trends in the population. DELWP will be conducting another kangaroo population survey in 2018.
The report of the kangaroo population survey results is available on the DELWP Arthur Rylah Institute webpage, or download the following fact sheet for a summary.
Chronic phalaris toxicity in kangaroos
Kangaroos can develop chronic phalaris toxicity, or ‘staggers’ as it is commonly referred to in sheep, which causes neurological damage in animals that have eaten Phalaris grasses (also known as canary grass). Phalaris is a common pasture crop and when grown under certain conditions, the young growth of some phalaris grass species can be toxic to animals that graze on it.
Symptoms commonly seen in kangaroos that have chronic phalaris toxicity poisoning include muscle tremors and abnormal or erratic movement, such as repeated falling over, giving the appearance that the kangaroo is “drunk” or “staggering”. Phalaris toxicity cannot be confirmed through the presence of symptoms alone and requires post-mortem examination of the brain and exclusion of other causes to successfully diagnose the condition.
Currently there is no known treatment for this condition in wildlife and unfortunately animals severely affected often require euthanasia or humane killing for animal welfare reasons (for example, if the kangaroo is unable to move and graze or escape predators).
Phalaris grasses that have a high-risk of being toxic can be sprayed in stages and replaced with non-toxic varieties. However, this process would increase grazing pressure by removing a food source and the use of chemical spray may create its own risks of toxicity.
If you suspect a kangaroo with chronic phalaris toxicity poisoning, please contact your local vet or a wildlife rescue organisation. You can also report it to the DELWP Customer Contact Centre on 136 186.
Management of kangaroos
Kangaroos, like all native wildlife, are protected in Victoria under the Wildlife Act 1975. While kangaroos are a protected species in Victoria, there are situations where kangaroos can cause damage which can negatively affect Victorian farmers, regional communities and biodiversity.
Areas with large kangaroo populations can experience issues such as:
- traffic accidents
- damage to pasture, crops, gardens and fences caused by kangaroos
- negative impact on vulnerable native vegetation or areas undergoing revegetation due to kangaroo grazing
- competition for grazing with livestock on farming properties
- kangaroos becoming aggressive towards people, usually when individual animals have regular contact with humans (e.g. become used to being fed by humans).
Authority to control wildlife
DELWP issues Authorities to Control Wildlife (ATCWs) under section 28A of the Wildlife Act 1975 for the control of kangaroos where they are demonstrated to be damaging pasture, crops or other property or impacting on biodiversity values. Any person wishing to control wildlife, including kangaroos, on their property is required to apply for an ATCW.
The management techniques for kangaroo populations include fertility control, fencing, scaring and culling.
These techniques vary in effectiveness depending on the situation and size of the population being managed. Wherever possible, DELWP advocates for the non-lethal management of kangaroos. Where non-lethal techniques are ineffective or impractical, lethal control may be necessary.
Further information on kangaroo management techniques, and how to apply for an ATCW, can be found on Wildlife management and control authorisations.
Management on public land
Kangaroo management is sometimes undertaken on public land to prevent populations from crashing (dying in large numbers from starvation) during droughts, to prevent damage to vulnerable native vegetation and habitat from overgrazing, to allow heavily grazed areas to regenerate, or to exclude them from water catchments for human health reasons.
DELWP and Victorian public land managers have been working together on a new coordinated approach to kangaroo management; providing the public with transparent information regarding the annual control program for kangaroos and the reasoning for it.
The factsheet outlines the 2017 forward plan of kangaroo control across public land.