One of Australia’s most iconic creatures has provoked debate in central Victoria as figures show kangaroos were involved in thousands of vehicle accidents in Victoria last year.
While some lament the high number of car collisions with the marsupial and call for greater control measures, others say alternatives need to be considered.
Data from RACV shows the City of Greater Bendigo recorded more collisions involving animals than any other municipality in Victoria in 2014, followed by Macedon Ranges and Mount Alexander shires.
The towns of Bendigo and Heathcote recorded the most collisions of any localities.
This map shows every collision with an animal recorded by police over the past five years.
Sebastian resident Sheree Steward said she had seen countless kangaroos injured and killed in road accidents in the four years she had lived in the area, and came across an incident at least weekly.
Ms Steward believes the number of accidents involving kangaroos is due to growing numbers of the marsupials.
“We see the migration into the suburban area, and there’s no development here,” she said.
She said many of the accidents she was aware of involved locals who were not speeding and who took precautions, knowing the risk of kangaroos on the roads.
But another rural City of Greater Bendigo resident, Narelle Lea, said she believed there were fewer collisions than reported because some drivers falsely claimed to have hit kangaroos to gain insurance payouts.
She said population growth among humans, not animals, was behind any increase in accidents, adding that she had witnessed a decrease in kangaroo numbers in her area, east of Bendigo.
“Part of the pleasure of living in the bush is having wildlife around you and you have to take that into consideration when you drive, and drive accordingly,” she said.
Her father was killed 22 years ago when he hit a kangaroo on his motorbike, but she said he had made a “silly mistake” by riding at dusk and did not blame the animal.
Instead of culls, she said there should be clearance of vegetation along roads and more wildlife corridors to cut the risk of cars hitting animals.
City of Greater Bendigo works manager Rachelle Quattrocchi said the council workers responsible for removing dead kangaroos from council-managed roadways had noticed a slight increase in kangaroo numbers in both urban and rural areas, but particularly around the Heathcote area.
Heathcote residents have been vocal about kangaroo numbers in the area and many have approached local politicians about the issue.
This year the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning plans to control 3000 eastern grey kangaroos at Puckapunyal, east of Heathcote to ensure the population, which is in a contained area, is sustainable and does not fall victim to starvation.
A DELWP spokesperson said the department had seen an increase in the number of applications for authorities to control wildlife from landholders and land managers, most likely because of seasonal conditions.
Between July 1, 2015 and May 24, 2016, authorities were issued for 4470 eastern grey kangaroos in the City of Greater Bendigo municipality, with authorities for 2590 issued in just the Heathcote postcode area.
Landholders applying for an authority to control wildlife must demonstrate kangaroos are causing property damage.
But the DELWP spokesperson said the department encouraged landholders and land managers to manage wildlife without disturbing it, wherever possible.
According to the DELWP, non-lethal control methods are used wherever possible but culling is often the only option available to land managers, because alternatives are either unfeasible when applied to large, free-ranging populations or too slow to address welfare concerns, such as starvation.
A kangaroo pet food trial, allowing the use of kangaroo meat harvested through wildlife control activities to be processed as pet food, is taking place in 12 local government areas in Victoria, including Mitchell and Strathbogie shires.