In Australia we love our absurd but magnificent kangaroo.  They have been a feature of Mornington Peninsula vineyards from the word go.  We must remember that this was their land long before the vines turned up.  And for a long time they were a benign visitor, quietly grazing between the rows.  But in recent years it seems they have changed their behaviour, and the consequences are not good for anybody.

Kangaroos can grow big.  Some, when they sit back on their hind legs, will tower above the average person.  I remember driving down the drive of Yabby Lake and clocking a kangaroo at 50 kms an hour – apparently some of them have a short dash speed of 70 kms an hour.  That speed also means they can jump – 2 metre fences are not really a problem for these guys.  So you put that package of size and power together, and then give them a taste for premium wine grapes, and you have a real problem.

The story that I have heard, from several different vignerons, is that the kangaroos started by nibbling at the new vine shoots – bad enough because that impacts production.  But now the guys are chomping away on the grapes themselves, and they can chomp through a lot.  We have always used nets to keep the birds off, but these guys have figured out how to push themselves underneath or even through the nets.  A standard electric fence is apparently no deterrent at all.  So in desperation some vineyards have applied for, and been granted permits to cull kangaroos.

Nobody likes doing it – but what is going here?  Well it’s probably a classic example of habitat destruction.  Kangaroos will live quite happily with cattle and sheep in big paddocks, but fill those paddocks up with vines – where can the kangaroos go?  And the other problem is that they are protected and have no real natural predators any more, so their numbers are on a steady increase.

Personally I hate the idea of a cull, so we need a new kind of deterrent – and I hope somebody figures it out soon.

Kangaroo in the vineyard

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