‘They’ll put you in a headache’: Australians warned against pet kangaroos after second death in 100 years | Wildlife
Kangaroos are often seen as friends, not enemies. But the marsupial’s reputation took a hit last week when a 77-year-old Western Australian was killed by the western gray pet he had raised by hand from a joey.
As Peter Eades lay dying on his farm in Redmond, 398km south of Perth, police were forced to shoot the three-year-old male kangaroo, which prevented an ambulance crew from reaching the injured man .
WA Police spokesman Ryan Langley said family members discovered a seriously injured Eades around 5 p.m. last Sunday.
“It is believed that the man had been attacked by the kangaroo earlier in the day.”
It is only the second death in 100 years caused by a kangaroo in Australia. The latest dates back to 1936, when a 38-year-old New South Wales man, William Cruickshank, reportedly died of head injuries after trying to save his dogs from a kangaroo.
A behavioral ecologist from the University of Melbourne, Graeme Coulson, said this week’s attack was unexpected but not surprising.
Pet kangaroos are driven by the same instincts as their wild counterparts. At this age, when they are not feeding or resting, they will fight, says Associate Professor Coulson.
“In this case the owner was probably thought to be another kangaroo and presumably the kangaroo was trying to play fight or maybe [engage in] more serious dominance fighting with him,” Coulson says.
Coulson says male kangaroos are strong and use their sharp nails and powerful kicks to fight for mating rights.
“Almost as soon as they start jumping, they start fighting. As you get older, it becomes more serious.
“An Eastern Gray we know was killed in a fight. And they all have scars and scrapes and tears – it’s pretty intense when that happens,” he says.
Kangaroos are protected native animals in Australia. Under federal conservation laws, it is an offense to harm them or keep them as pets.
The ‘boxer kangaroo’
While interactions with kangaroos are a far cry from the 1960s TV adventures of the eastern gray kangaroo Skippy, the docile animals often seem oblivious to their human neighbors. Nevertheless, there have been many close calls over the years.
In March, a 3-year-old girl was admitted to hospital in NSW with injuries to her head, back and arm after a kangaroo jumped onto the porch of the house she was playing on in the sets of the north.
Across the border in Queensland, just a month later, a 69-year-old golfer was repeatedly knocked to the ground and trampled by a kangaroo at Arundel Hills Country Club.
Nicknamed the “boxer kangaroo,” the western gray has broad shoulders, long arms, and hands as large as a human’s.
Coulson says kangaroos continue to grow throughout their lives, reaching sexual maturity at age four and eventually reaching two meters tall and weighing up to 60 kg.
“They’re pretty pumped up, with some serious muscle by the time they turn into a big buck,” Coulson says.
“They stand on their tails, which allows them to kick with big, sharp nails. But they can also struggle – they’ll put you in a bind.
In 2020, a kangaroo slammed into the windscreen of a Perth man’s car while he was driving his utility vehicle at 100km/h on a major highway. The injured animal reportedly landed in the passenger seat of the car, severely damaging the vehicle but leaving the surprised driver unharmed.
Nationwide, a south Canberra man in Garran was forced in his underwear to wrestle a kangaroo in 2009 after the animal crashed through a three-metre high bedroom window in the early hours of a Sunday morning.
Around this time Beat Ettlin, 42, his partner Verity Beman and his daughter Beatrix Lay were forced to cower under blankets as the injured and bloody kangaroo jumped on them as he tried to escape.
Ettlin told reporters he beat the two-meter-tall kangaroo into a headlock and dragged him out the front door.
Two hours north of Sydney, on the grounds of a mental hospital in South Lake Macquarie, aggressive kangaroos reportedly attacked and injured several tourists in 2018 after developing a taste for snacks.
panic and attack
Images of kangaroos are ubiquitous in Australia on sports team logos, art, coins, as well as Commonwealth coats of arms, but Coulson says habitat loss due to rapid development is a key issue for the species.
“You get kangaroo populations that are surrounded by development and have nowhere to go,” he says. “Some people just sit there languishing.”
Trapped and stressed animals may panic and attack, sometimes attempting to cross roads – endangering motorists.
In June, 200 kangaroos were moved from a Baldivis development site south of Perth after the public protested their destruction.
Dozens of kangaroos are believed to have perished in the move and Coulson says more needs to be known about the relocation of the species, as the animals often struggle to find food and try to return to their home range.
He says hand-raised kangaroos also pose a risk to the public, as the animals end up being unable to tell the difference between people and their own.
The WA Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions said it was preparing a report for the coroner and would not comment on the incident this week.
Back in Redmond, 25 minutes northeast of Albany, Eades was described as an animal lover.
The son of a farmer and teacher, Roger and Miriam, he grew up in the nearby town of Narrikup and established the Agonis Alpaca Stud in Redmond in 1990, breeding and naming 60 head of herd.
More than 20 years later and now a grandfather, Eades built a cemetery in his backyard in memory of the lost alpacas he described as children to him, according to the ABC.
It was here, next to the homemade headstone of his favorite alpaca Claudia, that Eades said he dug his own grave, ready for when the time came.
His family declined to comment on his death, saying they just wanted him to be at peace.