Like most wild animals, the answer to the question of whether a kangaroo is dangerous depends on whether or not you plan to get up close and personal with one! While not inherently dangerous to humans, a kangaroo can and will defend itself if it feels threatened. Here’s a look at the how, why, where, and when a kangaroo may be considered a danger.
All About Kangaroos
An iconic species and national symbol of Australia, the kangaroo is one of the most well-known and widely distributed animals in the “land down under.” They are the largest land mammals in Australia and the largest of all marsupials in the world. They are closely related to other native marsupials like wallabies and wallaroos.
Kangaroos are known for their unique build, which includes large, powerful legs and tails which they use to propel themselves in a hopping motion. They can reach impressive speeds of up to 40 miles per hour and leap distances of nearly 30 feet! They are also known for the unique way they carry their young. Like most species of marsupials, kangaroos carry their babies, which are known as “joeys,” in a special pouch known as a marsupium.
There are four distinct species of kangaroos found across Australia – red kangaroo, Eastern grey kangaroo, Western grey kangaroo, and antilopine kangaroo. As highly social animals, kangaroos are most often seen moving in groups known as “mobs” as they spend their days grazing on a variety of vegetation. Kangaroos are strict herbivores and eat a variety of grasses, leaves, fruits, and flowers.
Don’t let the fact that they’re herbivores fool you, kangaroos are capable of impressive feats of strength. Often referred to as “vegetarian gladiators,” some species of kangaroos are known for their massive muscles and brutal sparring behavior.
Red kangaroos, which live mostly in Central Australia, are known to be the largest and strongest of all kangaroo species. Adult male red kangaroos can reach heights of 6 feet, weigh nearly 200 pounds, and are known for their incredible muscular build. They are also the ones most often seen sparring; usually over food, territory, or to establish mating rights and dominance within their mob.
In 2015, photos and videos of a particularly buff kangaroo dubbed “Ripped Roger” went viral online, with many having a hard time believing they weren’t photoshopped. Roger was a red kangaroo living at The Kangaroo Sanctuary of Alice Springs. He was best known for showing off his impressive muscles and superior strength by playing with punching bags and crushing metal buckets!
“Ripped Roger” was found as an orphaned joey and raised at the sanctuary. He stood at a whopping 6 feet, 7 inches tall and weighed almost 200 pounds. Roger passed away due to age in 2018, but his memory lives on as an internet sensation and beloved character of memes.
When Kangaroos Pose a Danger to Humans
Like most wild animals, kangaroos pose very little threat to humans unless provoked. On the rare occasions when kangaroos have attacked, they were most likely disturbed by humans, either knowingly or unknowingly. In some instances, tourists have tried to get a little too close for comfort for a photo, while other attacks have occurred on hikers and trail runners that unknowingly startled a kangaroo lurking in the bush. There have also been cases of kangaroos attacking their handlers when being kept as pets, something wildlife experts warn against.
Kangaroos have powerful legs and sharp claws. If provoked, they can cause a serious or even fatal injury with just one kick. Male kangaroos are typically the most aggressive and may mistake an approaching human as a predator or even as another male kangaroo challenger due to their upright posture. Female kangaroos can also become aggressive when approached, especially when they are with a joey (baby kangaroo).
Safety in Kangaroo Country
Like most wildlife, the best way to prevent a kangaroo attack is to simply leave them alone. If you are entering kangaroo country – stay vigilant, heed posting warning signs, and never attempt to approach to feed a wild kangaroo!
When hiking in kangaroo country, the Australian government recommends carrying a hiking pole or walking stick. This will help deter kangaroos (from thinking you are one of them) and provide something to create a barrier with if needed. If you come upon a kangaroo, back away slowly and give the animal plenty of space. If a kangaroo acts aggressively towards you, it most likely sees you as a threat or challenger. It’s recommended to not make eye contact, keep hands at your side, and hunch down if possible to appear smaller and less of a threat. In the rare case that a kangaroo attacks, it’s recommended to drop to the ground and curl up into a ball, the animal will likely move on quickly.
Another time a kangaroo may pose a threat to a human is by way of automobile accidents. Sadly, kangaroo car collisions, especially on rural roads are common. They are often compared to deer in the United States for how common they are and how quickly they can dart out into the road. When driving in kangaroo country, always look for signs and remain vigilant, especially around dawn and dusk when they are most active.
Overall, humans pose a far greater threat to kangaroos than kangaroos pose to humans, with millions of these animals being hunted every year. Most humans have little to fear from a kangaroo unless they plan on provoking it!