Today’s factismal: Kangaroos are more dangerous than sharks.
If you ever go to Australia, people will warn you. “Don’t go swimming!” they’ll say, “the water is full of box jellyfish!” And “don’t go surfing!” they’ll say, “the coasts are home to great white sharks!” And “don’t play in the woods!” they’ll say, “there are deadly Australian snakes and funnel-web spiders!” But if you ask them about kangaroos, they’ll tell you how cute and cuddly they are. As usual, people have it wrong. In Australia, the kangaroo kills about 18 people each year which makes it deadlier than the shark (16 kills), the crocodile (9 deaths), or the funnel-web spider (1 kill)!
So why is the kangaroo such a terrifying critter? You might think that it is because of the kangaroo’s strong front paws with razor sharp claws but those claws are reserved for digging up roots to eat and not for disemboweling tourists. And you might think that it is because of the kangaroo’s strong tail with its whip-like tip but the tail is reserved for maintaining the roo’s balance as it hops across the outback and not for thwaping tourists. And you might think that it is because of the kanga’s strong feet with their powerful kick but the feet are reserved for bounding through the sky and not for going all medieval on tourists. No, the reason that kangaroos are so deadly is because of people.
You see, people like to drive and we like to drive fast. Unfortunately, our roads often cross the places where roos have been bounding for millennia. That splits where a roo might find shelter from where it might find food. As a result, the roos will have to cross the road and sometimes they’ll do it just when a person is driving by in their car. And when you add a 500 lb kangaroo to a car speeding down the road at 70 mph, nothing good can come of it. The roo usually dies and people often do as well. You end up with another example of roadkill.
And roadkill is more common than most people think. Every day, more than a million animals (not counting insects) and 200 people are killed on US roads when the animal meets the car. But roadkill is also an opportunity for scientific research. At its most basic level, roadkill tells us what types of animals live in an area and gives us an estimate of the relative populations. And it can tell us how those populations are changing in response to roads and the people that drive on them. If you’d like to help the scientists learn more about roadkill and the animals it comes from, then why not download the RoadkillGarneau App: