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Posts Tagged ‘Cape Le Grand’

So, back to the journey… back to Western Australia…

It had to happen. It was inevitable. If someone had told us before our trip that this was going to happen, we wouldn’t have been surprised. There’s no way we could drive all the way around Australia and not have this happen. The only surprise was the time of day: we would have expected it early in the morning or late in the afternoon – but it’s only 2pm.

Given the high probability of this occurrence, we came prepared. Tucked behind the car seats is a folding army surplus shovel: a tool to ease the problem. And now here I am, shovel in hand, standing at the side of the road, 30 kilometres east of Esperance. Hesitating.

There are over 200 species of marsupial in Australia, and many of them are Kangaroos or Wallabies. In the wild they generally give humans a wide berth, but they’re a serious hazard around roads. Wherever you drive outside the towns and cities, marsupial remains – large, small and in various stages of decomposition – litter the verges.

This dull windy afternoon, as we were making our way along a pine tree lined road towards Cape Le Grand National Park, a medium-sized Western Grey Kangaroo sped from the shelter of the trees on the left, into view and into our path, just metres ahead. Drivers can crash when they swerve to avoid creating roadkill. But a big roo can damage a vehicle and its occupants in an accident. So what did I do?

Western Grey Kangaroo courtesy of http://bird.net.au/

It happened so quickly. Instinct told me to swerve, but instinct isn’t as fast as a two tonne Land Rover in fifth gear. Like two people in a corridor that can’t decide which side to pass each other, we collided. I tried to go left – the direction the roo had come from – but it did the same, pivoting to hop back off the road, to no avail. It disappeared below our sightline; there was a hard clunk against the massive protective roo bar, followed by a scream from Ella. Shocked and horrified we pulled over to the side of the road. In the mirror I saw the poor animal flailing on the roadside, so we raced back to see if there was anything we could do.

Chest heaving, the roo lay stretched out on the verge stunned, eyes open, incapacitated. It wasn’t dead. I looked for signs of a Joey that might have fallen from a pouch, but it looked like the roo was male. A line of blood at the base of his thick tail didn’t bode well. A broken tail would render it immobile if it survived – a sure death sentence. Scenarios flit through my mind. Should I whack it with the shovel and end the suffering quickly? Or maybe the damage isn’t too bad. Should we take him to a wildlife carer? How would we even find one of those anyway?

Our mobile phone had coverage, so I waited at the end of the line as the Ranger at the National Parks headquarters in Esperance tried to find details for a wildlife carer. It felt futile, but we felt we had to try. How could we fit him in the car? Ella began to move things to make room.

Then I heard the sound of crunching gravel. I ran over. The roo’s back legs were pushing and struggling. But it was spinning in circles on the floor. Death throes.

The Ranger came back on the line.
OK, I think I can find someone for you.
Don’t worry, it’s too late. It’s died.

We drove on quietly, subdued by the event.

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