A man in his seventies who was attacked by a kangaroo has been left scarred by the macho marsupial.
Brian O’Donnell, 74, was riding his motorcycle across his farm in the Australian state of Victoria on Saturday night when the kangaroo began following him.
The kangaroo measured around 7 feet tall by O’Donnell’s estimations and “started growling and jumping up and down,” he told local news station ABC Wimmera.
“Next thing I know he was on top of me,” O’Donnell said. “He had his top paws right around my back. We were almost headbutting each other. I just kept punching him until he let me go and [the kangaroo] jumped away about 15 meters (49 feet).”
There are four species of kangaroo found across Australia: the red kangaroo, the eastern grey, the western grey and the antilopine kangaroo. Kangaroo attacks on humans are uncommon but can be vicious, with some people even dying as a result.
“A typical attack is the result (most people assume) of mistaken identity. Basically, male kangaroos that are top/alpha males have got to that level because they have dominated other males in the mob, physically fighting them for preferential access to females for sex,” Karl Vernes, an associate professor of ecology at the School of Environmental & Rural Science at the University of New England in Australia, told Newsweek.
“They are always thinking of mating—that pretty much occupies their day. So, attacks are almost (or always?) large, dominant males who think that the transgressor is another large male kangaroo that is wading into the mob of females to mate with them.”
Kangaroos can reach sizes of up to 200 pounds and around 7 feet tall, depending on the species.
“They are powerful animals. Mostly attacks involve kicking people leading to bruising and puncture wounds from their sharp toe claws,” Vernes said. “The sorts of injuries this guy received is typical. It was a bit strange that he was attacked repeatedly. Usually, I think the kangaroo realizes its mistake after the first attack—i.e., that it’s not another kangaroo—and that is the end of the event.
“The ‘headlock’ is what male kangaroos do—they kick and rake with their feet, and then try to ‘throw’ their opponent with their powerful forearms—so it is standard kangaroo fighting tactics.”
O’Donnell made a break for it, barely making it onto his motorcycle before the kangaroo charged for a second time.
“One more jump and he would’ve been on top of me again,” he told ABC Wimmera.
The man was rushed to local health services, where he received stitches, bandages, and antibiotics. His shirt was torn up by the attack.
“If he hadn’t had on a thick T-shirt the abrasions would have been more severe,” O’Donnell’s wife Sue told the news station.
Luckily, even for Australian locals, being attacked by a kangaroo is a very uncommon occurrence.
“Attack by a kangaroo is EXTREMELY rare,” Vernes said. “Kangaroos are not typically aggressive and not usually considered dangerous. But they are wild animals, and we should therefore give them plenty of space. Take the long way around for example, rather than moving through a mob of animals.”
The only times kangaroos will attack usually is when females are in heat, making them very aggressive to any perceived threat to their dominance.
“The only time I’ve seen this is when a male is guarding a female in oestrus from other males. Males get very aggressive when there is a female who is receptive, and attack any other male nearby,” Alecia Carter, an associate professor in evolutionary anthropology at University College London, told Newsweek.
“Kangaroo males don’t ‘protect’ females/the group, from what I’ve seen. They are protecting their potential to have a baby. Just being close is therefore ‘enough’ to ‘provoke’ an attack in this very specific context, which is rare!”
In the unlikely case of a kangaroo attack, Vernes advises strongly against fighting back.
“Drop down, tuck into a ball to protect your organs, tuck your head in, and protect the back of the neck with your hands,” he said. “The kangaroo might jump on you but then will lose interest because there is no threat, and the response is not the expected one. Interestingly, this is what women tend to do when attacked, whereas men typically try to fight back.”
Once the kangaroo stops, get as far away from it and its females as you can.
“Run away as fast as possible,” Carter urges. “As soon as you’re not in the area, he should stop pursuing you. And he won’t leave the female for long (because of the risk of another male coming to the female while he’s chasing you).”
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This article by Jess Thomson was first published by NewsWeek on 5 October 2023. Lead Image: Stock image of two Eastern Grey Kangaroos fighting in Tasmania, Australia. A man in his 70s was attacked by a kangaroo in Australia and narrowly escaped. ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS.