Danger in the top paddock
By LEE McDOUGALL
LAST week's kangaroo attack on 15-year-old Avocado Heights resident Jessica O'Loughlan has highlighted the issue of living in close proximity to native animals.
Several settlements throughout the region, including Safety Beach, Heritage Park, Avocado Heights, West Boambee and Bonville, have large kangaroo populations living close to humans.
National Parks and Wildlife Service Coffs Coast area manager, Glenn Storrie, said conflict between kangaroos and humans could occur when the animal perceived a person to be a threat to themselves, their mates, or their young.
"With males this can also be perceived as a threat to a sparring partner or as challenge to their group dominance," Mr Storrie said.
"Kangaroos can become used to the presence of people. Feeding or handling them causes them to lose their instinctive fear of humans."
Mr Storrie said some of the things that people could do to reduce the risk of kangaroo conflict included fencing backyards to exclude these animals or removal of kangaroo food, shelter and water opportunities.
"People should not attempt to feed or make contact with kangaroos in any way," he said.
"People can also modify their routines to avoid areas where kangaroos occur and children should be closely supervised."
Jessica's father, John, contacted Coffs Harbour Police when the attack occurred, but was less than happy with the response.
"The first female constable I spoke to basically said 'what do you want me to do about it'," Mr O'Loughlan said.
"I couldn't believe it. I hung up, then called back half an hour later and spoke to a different female constable who, while far more sympathetic and understanding, also said there was little they could do."
Sergeant Frank Cook of Coffs Harbour Police said in situations involving native animals, the police operated under the guidance of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
"We have taken a report and, if there is a spate of attacks and the NPWS identifies this kangaroo as a rogue animal who is attacking people, then we may be called in," Sergeant Cook said.