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Wildlife hits the road in search of pickings

Dry weather is enticing animals to the road side, where many are being hit by vehicles.

Dry weather is enticing animals to the road side, where many are being hit by vehicles. Photo: Gary Schafer

Native and feral animals are flocking to our road verges in search of a free meal as dry weather grips the region after three seasons of plenty.

But with an increase in hungry animals near Canberra's roads, comes the inevitable increase in road kill.

Early morning travellers have told Fairfax there is a proliferation of wildlife along the Kings Highway, on the Barton Highway and elsewhere.

A fisherman heading towards the coast at about 4.15am on Saturday saw a group of suckling pigs between Bungendore and Braidwood. Foxes had been seen in the main street of Queanbeyan a short time earlier.

Phil McGrath, the Braidwood ranger with the South East Livestock Health and Pest Authority, said the apparent explosion in animal numbers was easily explained.

"It is all a part of the seasonal ebb and flow," he said. "Animals, both native and feral, react very quickly to the environment. If a food source becomes available they will quickly breed up to take advantage of it."

Towards the end of 2012, parts of south-eastern NSW and the ACT entered a dry period after three years of well-above average rainfall.

"Last year was a big fox year," Mr McGrath said. "This was a reaction to the better seasons of the last few years."

A jump in pig numbers could be explained in the same way.

"Pigs react to a good season as well, but not as much as foxes," he said. "Hunting helps keep the numbers down."

Mr McGrath said fox numbers had increased steadily for decades as the market for skins collapsed along with the fur trade.

"Back in the late 1970s you could get $40 a skin," he said. "That was a lot of money. Today you might get $20 – in 2013 money.

"That's probably the equivalent of $5 [in 1979 money]. You wouldn't skin a fox for that."

Mark McGaw, the senior ranger with the Tablelands Livestock Health and Pest Authority at Goulburn, said the animals were just more visible as they move closer to the road to forage.

"The road verge catches the run-off from the asphalt and stays greener [than the surrounding paddocks]," he said.

"Kangaroos, wallabies and rabbits that come after the green pick don't have the grazing competition [from stock] they do on the other side of the fence."

The downside was that the animals ran the risk of ending up as road kill on the side of the highway.

"That [the road kill] is the reason the foxes come," Mr McGaw said. "The pigs are omnivorous. If they can score some free meat they will, if not they go for the green pick."

Mr McGaw and Mr McGrath say farmers should take advantage of the increased mobility of rabbits, pigs and foxes to step up eradication measures.

"Hit them while they are doing it tough," Mr McGaw said.

The Canberra Times contributor and territory identity, Tim The Yowie Man, said the dry conditions placed additional pressure on wildlife, with the result animals could move further into the suburbs.

"We are the bush capital so we should be flexible and adapt our living to the native wildlife around in our suburbs," he said.

"I regularly see roos bounding through my street in suburban Belconnen and even found one in the garden last week.

"We should embrace this native wildlife in our suburbs and take extra care on the roads.

"Many people in other cities would love to have bush icons bounding through their streets. If a roo comes into your garden try not to scare it or corner it; in most cases it should be able to jump the fence."

4 comments so far

  • A lot of these collisions are avoidable. As a daily traveller along the Kings Highway at dawn and dusk I drop my speed as do most regular commuters, but am amazed by the vehilces that are still doing 120kmh or more. The number of dead animals on the side of the road doesn't seem to register with these drivers that there is a high risk of collision.

    On the easter long weekend I was overtaken by a vehcile doing at least 120kmh only to come across them a few km later with a roo impaled through the front of their vehicle. The driver said to me "that was unlucky". No-it was inevitable.

    Alan F
    Date and time
    April 30, 2013, 11:35AM
    • Another good reason to build a freeway to replace the Kings highway, with animal corridors under culverts etc. and an alternative corridor down the Clyde mountain.

      Tax payers are spending $39,000 per day servicing the crashes on the road, time to sort it out?

      Date and time
      April 30, 2013, 3:50PM
      • Nothing new here as there hasn't been a time in the last 80 years where there were not roos n rabbits on the side of roads. Roos and rabbits are creatures of habit having similar habits regarding what times they graze on the green pick on road's edge and if drivers fail to take on board road sign warnings, don't slow down and don't keep their eyes peeled between dusk and dawn they're bound to contribute to the roadkill scoreboard.If a driver is observant they'll note that certain sections of roads have evidence of run over roos and rabbits by carcasses and if the road authority hasn't put signs up it doesn't mean the road is safe to go hell for leather on. Animals cannot change their modus operandi so read the road itself as you drive it and leave yourself as much leeway as possible to be able to react to the unexpected because if a roo, a cow, a horse, camel or donkey join you inside the car via your windscreen you're in for a real horror trip.

        Date and time
        May 01, 2013, 11:27AM
        • Its a sorry myth that Canberra believes it is a 'bush capital'. You have to respect and understand wildlife before you can qualify for this tag. Unfortunately when it comes to wildlife of all kinds Canberra's history is one of cruelty and disinterest.

          Date and time
          May 01, 2013, 9:58PM

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