What to do if you hit a kangaroo while driving

Dry weather and an increase in urban development are forcing kangaroos closer to the roads. We take a look at what to do if you hit a roo with your car.

It’s 2:30 in the afternoon and Central Coast tattoo parlour owner Lisa Yeomans apologises for being late for our interview.

“I’m terribly sorry,” she says. “I’m looking after another carer’s little ones today and they don’t cope with changes to their routine or other people handling them – so what would normally take me half an hour to feed and toilet them, has taken over an hour.”

It’s an apology many parents would be able to relate to, but Miss Yeomans is a carer for the Central Coast branch of the New South Wales Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc (WIRES) and has her hands full caring for and raising rescued kangaroos.

According to Miss Yeomans, the generally dry weather and an increase in urban development over the past few years have seen an increase in the number of callouts she receives to rescue injured kangaroos from the side of the road.

An AAMI spokesperson backed this up, saying the insurer was expecting drought conditions across much of Australia to likely lead to an increase in kangaroos being near roads as they seek out available food.

“Drivers need to be extra vigilant and stay alert, particularly at dawn and dusk, when kangaroos are most active,” he said. “Wild animals can be unpredictable, especially when startled by cars, so we encourage drivers to expect the unexpected on the road.”

Figures released by AAMI show 83% of all collisions with animals in one year (March 2018 to February 2019) were with kangaroos, making them the most at-risk animals when it comes to being hit by cars.

So, what steps should you take if you hit a kangaroo while driving, and what can you do to help prevent future accidents?

What to do if you hit a roo

Miss Yeomans told Canstar the first thing to do is to pull over, if it is safe to do so, and ensure everyone in the car is okay. It is also important to check on the animal, as your actions immediately following an accident could impact the survival of the kangaroo or its young.

“If you hit an adult and it is still alive, don’t go too close as they can be dangerous when they feel threatened, or could try to move, which is not safe for them,” she said.

“Check if there are joeys nearby as parent kangaroos can be very protective and this could lead to further stress for the animal. If you can, try to place a blanket over its head to help keep it calm until help arrives.”

Miss Yeomans said it was a good idea to contact your local wildlife rescue organisation or police station, who could talk you through steps for checking the animal or potentially removing a joey.

“The more information you can provide, the better the advice we can give and if we can identify the species, it can also help the person who will come out to the rescue to prepare for the kangaroo’s arrival.”

If you do not have phone reception, Miss Yeomans recommended checking the kangaroo’s pouch (if the adult kangaroo is not showing signs of life and it is safe to do so). If there’s a joey inside, gently remove it and keep it warm in a quiet, dark environment while you seek out the nearest vet.

“Mark the location or identify a landmark, and take a photo of the mum,” she said. “The more information we have, the better the chances we can identify the particular species of kangaroo and rehabilitate successfully. We will also want to send out someone to check on the adult kangaroo, in case they were just knocked unconscious and need assistance.”

A spokesperson from WIRES summarised what to do with the following steps.

  1. Stop and check the animal, where safe. To stop safely, pull over using your hazard lights and don’t stop on a corner. Wear hi-vis or bright clothing, if you have any. If it is not safe to stop, notify the local wildlife rescue organisation closest to the animal’s location.
  2. Check the pouch. When checking the pouch, look for obvious lumps and movement in the pouch area and then, if the adult kangaroo is unresponsive, look inside the pouch itself. Also check the surrounding areas for joeys that may have been thrown from the mother’s pouch on impact.
  3. Call a wildlife rescue organisation like WIRES immediately.
  4. Remove the joey if it is not attached to a teat, and keep it warm and quiet. Don’t offer the joey any food or liquids unless advised to by a wildlife group or vet, and handle it as little as possible. If you find a joey attached to a teat, don’t attempt to remove it unless you are advised how to do so by WIRES or another wildlife organisation.
  5. Carefully remove the kangaroo’s body from the road if you are sure it is deceased and you can do this safely, so it won’t be a hazard to motorists or attract other animals that feed on animal carcasses. However, large mammals like kangaroos can be very heavy, so consider your own risks before moving them. Dragging the body by the base of the tail or hind legs is best. If possible, tie a ribbon or something similar to the animal’s foot to signal to other motorists the animal has been checked.

It is a good idea to pause and gather yourself before you begin driving again, as the shock or adrenaline could impact your focus and judgment on the road.

Miss Yeomans advises that even if you think a kangaroo may have been at the side of the road for a while, it is still important to check it and contact your local wildlife rescue organisation, as joeys can potentially survive in a pouch for several days. This is also true if the animal hopped away, as it may be injured and need assistance.

Who to call if you hit a kangaroo?

To find your nearest wildlife rescue organisation, take a look at the following list:

Another alternative is to call the closest police station.

Will car insurance cover damage caused by hitting a kangaroo?

Depending on your insurer and presuming you were driving legally, you may be covered for the costs of repairing your car if you have a comprehensive car insurance policy. This may also be the case if you were in an accident while trying to avoid hitting an animal (though the general recommendation is to avoid swerving, as this can put you in more danger).

According to a spokesperson from the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA), insurers will generally treat damage to a vehicle from colliding with an animal the same way as damage resulting from evasive action to avoid an animal when assessing a comprehensive car insurance claim.

Do keep in mind that making a claim on your car insurance could impact any no-claims bonus you may have, and your premiums could increase as a result. You will typically also be required to pay an excess, which is an agreed amount you pay to the insurer whenever you make a claim. So you may choose to consider your options, depending on the extent of the damage to your vehicle, to determine whether it would be cheaper to pay out of pocket or make a claim.

How to make a car insurance claim if you hit a kangaroo

Once you have checked the welfare of people around you and the animal involved (if it is safe to do so), the ICA recommends taking the following steps:

If you need a tow truck, there has been significant damage or anyone has been injured, keep in mind that in some states you are required to notify the police.

Write down the following details about any other party or parties involved:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Vehicle registration number
  • Address
  • Licence number
  • Car insurance details
  • Statement of what happened

Gather the names and phone numbers of any witnesses to the accident, in case you need to contact them later.

If it’s safe to do so, take photos of the accident scene and the damage caused to your vehicle and any others (if other vehicles are involved).

Contact your insurer to discuss your next steps, including moving your damaged vehicle to a repairer and, if your policy allows, using a hire car while yours is being repaired.

What happens to kangaroos taken into care?

Miss Yeomans said she could have up to nine animals in her care at any one time, though four is a more comfortable number, considering young joeys require five bottles of milk a day, plus being toileted.

The younger ‘pinkies’ rely on a regulated humid, low-oxygen environment and regular feeds using a specific formulation that closely mimics the nutrients they would receive from their mother. They also eat grass and, according to Miss Yeomans, even dirt to help develop their immune systems.

Once a kangaroo is healthy and at an age where it can fend for itself, the wildlife rescue organisation will identify the best location to release it – usually within 100km of the accident site and near where there is a known ‘mob’ of the same type of roo.

“If kangaroos are taken in by an authorised carer quickly and looked after properly, the chance of a successful release is quite high,” Miss Yeomans said.

“The most crucial part is making sure they get to a carer who understands the needs of the kangaroo as soon as possible – each hour can decrease their survival rate.

“Even for those who don’t make it, it is rewarding to know we gave them an environment where they were loved and cared for, and they were as peaceful and comfortable as possible.

“It drives me to do my best to help the next rescue achieve a successful outcome, knowing I can make a difference and give these little guys the best chance possible.”

For more information or to donate, visit the WIRES website.

Cover image source: Alex Godoy Photography/Shutterstock.com

Sub edited by Milan Cuk.

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