What’s Lurking In Your Backyard? – #6 Eastern Grey Kangaroo

This series looks at the variety of fauna that may be found in the suburban backyard or local reserve and the diversity may be surprising to some people. The obvious fauna are the vast array of birds that are readily seen by day and some by night, but there are numerous species that are nocturnal. Some of these nocturnal species people are familiar with as they tramp across the roof at night with what sounds like hobnail boots on, or they hear fighting in the backyard over food and territory. Others are cryptic and may only be seen infrequently when they enter the house for warmth and shelter. Each week I will highlight a different species that may be found in and around Melbourne’s backyards, parks and reserves, some may be familiar others less so.

#6 Eastern Grey Kangaroo
(Macropus giganteus)

The Eastern Grey Kangaroo (EGK) is one of Australia’s iconic native species and is not the sort of animal that one usually associates with the urban environment. However as the urban fringe is pushed further and further out the frequency of this species to occurrence in the urban environment increases. This is usually due to the encroachment of housing into traditional grazing land of the kangaroo and the green corridors that are incorporated into new developments that enable the kangaroo to move closer into urban areas in search of food or part of old migration patterns. It is in these areas that are most likely to come into conflict with humans.

The EGK as the name suggests is light grey or brown in colour with a lighter underbelly and a darker face. The fur is wooly in appearance and texture. They have a keen sense of smell and sight and you may notice them swivel their ears to assist in detecting sounds. They will thump the ground when they perceive danger to warn other members of the mob, which can consist of over 10 individuals. The mob will consist of a mature or dominant male with subordinate males and females with joeys. Their expected life span is around 18 years.

The EGK is a marsupial mammal. That is they are warm-blooded animal with a pouch that gives birth to live young at an early stage of development, the young then develop fully in the pouch. The pouch will be the home of the “joey” for nearly 12 months and they will remain with the parent for up to 18 months.

The EGK is member of the family group called “macropods” and includes other kangaroos, wallabies, pademelons etc. As with many kangaroo species they have hind legs that are larger than the forelimbs and these larger hind limbs are extremely powerful. Their long muscular tail they use for balance when hoping and as a third leg when moving about slowly. The EGK can leap up to 8 metres in a single bound and can obtain speeds of up to 65kmh for short distances.

The EGK can usually be found in open woodlands and grasslands, in eastern Australia and Tasmania, were there is access to protective vegetation cover. They will utilise the protection of the woodlands during the day and come out into the fringes of the grasslands during the early evening and mornings to forage on grasses and herbs. Kangaroo’s can often be seen resting amongst tree cover during the day.

With the encroachment of the urban areas into more and more habitat of the kangaroo and with the additional food availability associated with well watered areas and cropping populations can increase rapidly and become a problem for land management agencies and the public. The feeding of wildlife especially kangaroos can lead to serious conflicts between humans and kangaroos when food is not available and often results in animals being destroyed due to these conflicts. For more information about living with wildlife follow this link: Living With Wildlife

If you hit a kangaroo in your travels you should check to see that the animal is dead and that there is no pouch young that may still be alive. In the interest of the safety of other road users and other wildlife that may feed of the dead animal it is recommended that body be dragged of the road. Follow this link for more information: Sharing The Road With Wildlife

© Habitat Ecology 2012

Eastern Grey Kangaroo

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