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When Kangaroos Attack

This one wasn’t wild; he was an escaped ‘pet’

98-year-old Phyllis Johnson in hospital after being attacked by a confused kangaroo

Why would a kangaroo come bounding into someone’s backyard and attack her? Wild animals aren’t crazy, and unless provoked they have no reason to harm humans.

So there was obviously more to this story than appeared at first sight.

Phyllis Johnson was hanging her laundry on the line in her backyard in Charleville, Australia, when a kangaroo bounded over the fence, came crashing through the clothes waving in the breeze, and started kicking her.

The 94-year-old grandmother grabbed a broom as she was knocked to the ground and tried to defend herself, but the roo kept coming.

“I just started swinging at it. I bashed it on the head but it kept going for me,” she said. “Not even the dog would help. It was too frightened.”

Mrs. Johnson managed to crawl into the house and call her son on the phone. But even waving a stick at him wouldn’t get the animal to go back wherever he’d come from. He just kept pacing around the yard. When her son arrived, he called the police.

It took two officers and two cans of pepper spray to subdue the kangaroo. Sgt. Steven Perkins said the animal was in “panic mode” when they arrived.

“One officer had to deploy his OC spray on the animal and it ran away and saw the other police officer out of the corner of its eye,” Sgt. Perkins said. “The other officer also had to deploy his spray to keep from getting hurt. It’s one of the many unusual calls we get out here.”

Mrs. Johnson has been in hospital for two days. She was badly scratched and bruised and may need surgery on her leg.

Not aggressive, just frightened

So, why would a kangaroo come into someone’s garden and behave like this?

Red kangaroos live in the dry regions of Australia and are commonly shot by farmers because they can easily jump over high fences to graze in the fields.

Police got the answer the following day: He wasn’t a wild animal; he was an escaped “pet.”

Local resident Darryl Dobbin was “babysitting” Eddie the kangaroo when he escaped from his home.

“Somehow the gate was left open on Sunday and he escaped,” Dobbin said.

Dobbin said Eddie was orphaned as a joey and was brought up in captivity by a local wildlife carer. When he was released into the wild he was injured – perhaps by a car or by dogs – and he came back to the house where he had grown up.

Dobbin said Eddie’s injured hip never healed properly and he was kept in captivity for his own safety.

“He’s really gentle. He grew up with people and he will follow you and come when you call him. It may be he was misunderstood.”

Yesterday, Eddie was in a holding facility waiting to be examined by a veterinarian and facing the prospect of being killed.

“A decision will be made once the veterinarian report has been considered,” said the regional wildlife operations manager.

Despite her frightening ordeal, Ms Johnson yesterday insisted she did not want the animal destroyed.

“I don’t want the roo set free in this area again in case it attacks someone else, but I definitely do not want it killed,” she said. “I would like to see it given to a zoo or some other such animal park where it can be looked after.”

Were the people at Eddie’s home real wildlife rehabilitators? Would skilled rehabbers have released him where he could be hurt by cars or dogs? Would they leave him in a backyard with a single gate that could easily be left open? Or was it really that Eddie had become the “pet” of people who had maybe been well-intentioned but have no real experience of caring for wildlife?

Those and other questions have yet to be answered. But what’s for sure is that animals in the wild would normally have no reason to come bounding into someone’s backyard and start attacking them, and that animals who are wildlife are not pets and do not belong in human homes.

See also a related story: Disabled animal faces kangaroo court.