A swivelling searchlight followed by the soft, deadly thud of a silenced high-powered rifle will be seen and heard thousands of times around Canberra's nature reserves in the winter nights ahead as the ACT conducts its largest-ever cull of Eastern Grey kangaroos.
Just over 4000 kangaroos will be shot over the next 10 weeks as the program extends to 14 sites around the ACT, several including the Mt Majura, Mt Ainslie, Crace and Callum Brae nature reserves.
The activity will force the progressive overnight closure of the reserves from Tuesday, May 7, through to July 26.
There will be no shooting on weekends, but visitors will be asked to leave affected reserves on Sundays at 3pm.
The 2019 cull quota is more than twice that of 2018, when 1822 were culled within the ACT. A further 1431 were shot at the Googong foreshores.
Public support for a culling program has grown steadily since 2008 and according to a 2015 government survey, sits at 86 per cent.
The ACT government says the prevailing dry weather conditions had created an environment in which thousands of kangaroos will starve to death during the coming winter due to a lack of grass.
"Our ecologists have used the best scientific knowledge to . . . determine the numbers to be culled," ACT Parks and conservation director Daniel Iglesias said.
"While nobody likes culling kangaroos, it is currently the most humane method of population management available."
Waltraud Pix, who volunteers to help protect Mt Majura's native grasslands, described the environmental damage caused by kangaroos and rabbits as significant.
"So much of our time and effort is now in trying to protect what is planted," she said.
Anti-cull protests are expected as organisations such as Animals Australia and Animal Liberation ACT believe that the scientific evidence is flimsy.
Carolyn Drew, from Animal Liberation ACT, said that there were inherent contradictions in the government rationale to support its cull.
"The government is trying to have it both ways; it says that the reason why Eastern Greys are so prolific around the ACT is that there is plenty of feed for them here," she said.
"But then they say but we have to kill them just in case they starve."
She also said the biodiversity protection argument also was unsupported because "kangaroos have been part of the Australian landscape, living in this environment with our flora and fauna, for tens of thousands of years".
Public protest activity against the cull has been flagged but Ms Drew would not be drawn into specific details.
"We will be protesting and those who oppose the government on this may also engage in civil disobedience, such as entering reserves during the cull," she said.
Warning signs will be at the reserve entry points, surveillance cameras will be in place, and parks rangers will patrol with night vision equipment.
Since 2015 the ACT government has been field testing the dart-borne injection of 142 female kangaroos with a contraceptive vaccine.
Although the program is fraught with cost and complexity, breeding was prevented in 92 per cent of the injected animals.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.