Kangaroos are marsupials with powerful hind legs that can reach anywhere from three to eight feet tall and weigh anywhere from 40 to 200 pounds.
These awe-inspiring creatures are indigenous to Australia and New Guinea and have become widely known animal symbols in popular culture.
Are Kangaroos Dangerous?
Yes, kangaroos can be dangerous.
Though they are known for their cute hops and baby (joey) carrying pouches, these animals can become quite aggressive toward humans.
With the growing loss of kangaroo habitats and the spread of urbanization, kangaroos and humans are finding themselves face to face more often.
This can easily lead to conflict, as the two species learn to cohabit with each other.
Though a kangaroo attack is not common, it can happen.
For the most part, kangaroos are docile creatures and will only typically attack if provoked or to defend themselves.
Kangaroos that feel cornered can also maneuver in unpredictable ways.
Like many social creatures, kangaroos live in social structures within their own mobs.
This hierarchy comes with roles that are filled by individual kangaroos.
The dominant male is the leader and protector of the mob and poses the most threat to humans.
The dominant male’s job is to look out for his mob.
He also claims the females as his.
Therefore, humans who unknowingly approach a female in the mob may be charged by the dominant male if he sees them as a threat in any way.
A kangaroo can attack humans in various ways, but mostly by scratching with its sharp claws and kicking with its powerful hind legs.
Both its arms and legs have long claws and are strong enough to tear into an opponent’s flesh or even their eyes.
Its powerful kicks are strong enough to break bones and cause internal injuries, as well.
The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage states, “A kangaroo will attack a person as if they were another kangaroo. It may push or grapple with its forepaws or sit back and kick out with its hind legs.”
Unfortunately, kangaroos also pose a threat to human drivers, as they make up 90% of the animal-related car accidents in Australia.
Similar to deer in the United States, kangaroos come out around dusk and evening and often leap into roads unintentionally.
These surprise obstacles cause drivers to either hit the kangaroo or swerve to avoid it, hitting nearby barriers instead.
Kangaroos are more likely to severely injure small children or pets, including dogs, due to their small stature.
Why Would A Kangaroo Attack A Human?
Though it’s not common, a kangaroo will attack for reasons such as protection or to show dominance.
It can also simply mistake a human for another large animal intruder.
As stated, male kangaroos must protect their mobs, so anything or anyone that comes near it will be asked to leave.
This helps to keep the peace and harmony within the group.
Male kangaroos will fight off anything that may disturb the balance of the mob.
Also, females that have recently given birth and are protecting their joeys may act aggressively towards humans.
This can happen whether the joey is inside the pouch or not.
Sick or injured kangaroos may attack in self-defense if a human tries to approach.
What Should You Do If You Meet A Kangaroo In The Wild?
Humans used to have to go out of their way just to see a kangaroo, but as the two living environments start to bleed into each other, humans and kangaroos are starting to find each other in common spaces more often.
With the spread of urban development into kangaroo habitats and diminishing brushland destroyed by wildfire and construction, humans and kangaroos have started to run into each other more and more.
If you do encounter a kangaroo in the wild, keep your distance.
Just as with any other wild animal, do not approach the kangaroo.
Give the kangaroo as much room as possible, but keep your eye on it to watch how it’s behaving.
Do not move aggressively towards the kangaroo or make any dramatic gestures, as the kangaroo will interpret this as a threat.
Because kangaroos travel in mobs, you’ll likely start to notice the same kangaroos over and over again.
This makes it possible to notice their particular behaviors and become familiar with the mob’s actions.
Over time, you can start to build a relationship that doesn’t involve direct interaction with your local mob, preventing any surprises from occurring.
Kangaroos have also lost many of their natural predators, and new habitats have been created for them unintentionally through the building of dams and the creation of new pastures.
All of these changes contribute to the movement of kangaroo populations, sometimes into residential developments.
What Are Some Signs To Look For To Avoid Conflict?
Kangaroos may attack for many reasons, but it typically comes back to protection, dominance, or confusion.
In general, male kangaroos are much more aggressive than females.
Males will be easier to spot because of their larger size and display of dominant behavior.
Dominant males in kangaroo mobs tend to fend off intruders in order to protect the mob and to ensure they have access to their reproductive female partners.
People who approach a dominant male can easily be seen as a threat.
Behaviors to look out for are if the kangaroo gets on all fours and walks slowly with its back arched.
It may also rub its chest on the ground from side to side or stand straight and tall on its hind legs and urinate.
It can also show dominance by grabbing onto grasses or shrubs and rubbing them on his chest.
Of course, if you see a kangaroo already fighting or boxing, it’s already in sparring mode.
All of these behaviors are reasons to back away.
Sub-dominant males will display a short cough, acknowledging the dominant male and submitting to him.
However, if the other male (or human) does not cough, the dominant male may pick a fight to declare his superiority and control over the other.
Sick or injured kangaroos may also become defensive, so if something seems off about the animal, contact a wildlife professional to avoid any human injury.
Though males are the dominant sex, female kangaroos may still approach humans if they’re looking for food.
In this case, it’s still best to move away as females will scratch and kick as well.
Also, steer clear of joeys, as their mothers will be looking to protect them.
What To Do If A Kangaroo Becomes Aggressive
If a kangaroo does start to approach you in an aggressive manner, move away as much as possible, creating distance between the two of you by using a branch or a stick, or you can get behind a tree.
This will make it more difficult for the kangaroo to kick and scratch at you.
It’s also best to move away quickly, giving it less time to react to you.
Do not turn your back to the kangaroo and run, however. Kangaroos can easily outrun you and also kick at the same time.
If the gap between you and the kangaroo starts to close, turn to your side and protect the front of your body, drawing your head back as much as possible.
This will help mitigate face, head, and front body injuries.
According to the Queensland Government Department of Environment and Science, if a dominant male comes toward you, “Protect yourself and let the animal know you are not a threat by giving a short, deep cough, avoiding eye contact and crouching down as you move away.”
In the worst-case scenario, if a kangaroo starts to attack and you can’t get away, curl up into a small ball, protecting your head and internal organs as much as possible.
Call for help and roll or crawl away to safety when it’s possible.
What Are Some Ways To Avoid Interaction With A Kangaroo?
Because kangaroos and humans are being forced to interact more often due to merging habitats, there are some actions that you can do to help avoid run-ins.
One way to prevent a run-in with a kangaroo is to erect a fence or barrier around your yard.
Kangaroos often migrate into people’s backyards in Australia and surrounding islands in search of food, but keeping them off of your private property will help prevent dangerous situations from arising.
Keeping your grass mowed short can also help eliminate the attraction of kangaroos to your yard.
It’s recommended to also plant more shrubs and ground cover in your yard to create a limited amount of access to the grass and to make it more difficult for kangaroos to graze there.
Installing motion detector lights can also help deter kangaroos from night grazing, a favorite activity of the nocturnal animals.
You can also purchase products like blood and bone fertilizers and sonic deterrents to help keep kangaroos off of your property.
Also, do not store food outside and limit outside water access, as these things attract kangaroos.
After all, their natural food and water sources are slowly getting harder and harder to find.
If you spot a sick or injured kangaroo, contact a wildlife center or rehabilitator instead of approaching the animal yourself.
Most importantly, do not ever feed kangaroos.
Feeding kangaroos will bring you a lot of unwanted attention from the mob, leading to aggressive behavior and possible injury.
Feeding kangaroos human food also can greatly upset their digestive systems and lead to sickness and death of the kangaroo.
What Are The Harmful Effects Of Kangaroo And Human Interaction?
As cute and cuddly as kangaroos seem to be, these complex creatures should be seen and respected as wild animals.
When humans try to incorporate kangaroos into their lives in unhealthy ways that go against the grain of nature, harmful effects can take place.
For instance, if humans start to feed a wild kangaroo, the kangaroo will come to rely on this and become quite aggressive when it is not given food by humans.
Giving kangaroos food that is not in line with their natural diet can also cause illness and disease.
Other members of the mob will start to migrate towards human feeding as well, leading to unusually large groups of kangaroos gathering around humans.
Sometimes, however, kangaroos are rescued by humans and are therefore forced to be fed by humans.
After these rehabilitated kangaroos are released into the wild, they may still relate humans to food and seek food from humans when they run across them.
This, of course, can lead to scratching and kicking when they aren’t given the food they demand.
Overall, it’s best to limit interaction with kangaroos as much as possible.
This allows them to live their own lives in a healthy and natural way.
Showing respect for this creature will help them see humans as a non-threatening species to their own existence.
What Are The Statistics?
Besides kangaroos causing 90% of animal-related car accidents, which only make up 5% of car accidents in Australia, there are few statistics to show that kangaroos pose a huge threat to humans.
According to Australian Geographic, there were 18 reported deaths caused by kangaroos from 2000 to 2010, but most of those were vehicle-related.
Despite the potential threat of a kangaroo attack, these creatures are much more prone to being attacked by humans.
Statistics show that 1.5 million kangaroos were slaughtered by humans in 2015 and five million were killed in 2012 for meat and other reasons.