Wallaby Woes: Pt. 2
Mid-summer last year we had a wallaby hopping about Little Owl Gully. The first time we’d seen one in the actual gully, although a couple of years previous June had witnessed a full-grown wallaby leap a goat paddock boundary fence and disappear amidst the stalks of the forest of wheat growing in the neighbouring farmer’s paddock.
Before I’d even got the blog post out about last summer’s unwelcome visitor (see Wallaby Woes), we found the wallaby some way along our road – yet another road kill statistic. Then, no further sightings till this summer. According to our farming neighbours there are four, five, possibly more living in a pine plantation just across the valley floor from us. A mere hop, skip and a jump away! Makes you wonder if that’s the start of a viable breeding population – so close to home it might as well be.
Three weeks ago, June (on her way to milk a goat), saw a half-grown wallaby sitting bolt upright and dead still near the gully footbridge. She kept walking until there was a mere ten metres or so between them, but the wallaby didn’t budge; it didn’t seem to mind being that close to a human. June, determined to get it off the property, chased the animal through several small goat paddocks before, finally convinced the welcome mat wasn’t out that day, our unwelcome visitor jumped our eastern boundary fence.
A week ago she spotted the same animal near her craft studio. June came back to the house to let me know and I decided that if it was still around, I’d shoot it. Grabbed .22 rifle from gun cabinet, bolt action and bullets from elsewhere – so several minutes before I got to where June had seen the wallaby. Luckily, still hanging about and heading off towards the vegetable garden.
Bugger, in my haste I’d forgotten to put on my glasses; nine at night and the wallaby in semi-darkness and half obscured by the paddock’s high grass stalks. I drew a bead as best I could on the decidedly blurred image. I was convinced a vanishing trick (they’re good at that) was on the cards, so, with yet more haste I took what I hoped would be a shot targeting the chest area: Bounded off nonchalantly and vanished!
Then, two days later, walking back to the house after shutting the hens away for the night, I had the uncanny feeling that I was being watched. Sure enough, a half-grown wallaby standing tall on its haunches, utterly motionless, and with that bizarrely tiny wedge of a head pointed in my direction.
This time I had my specs on and took a few deep, calming breaths as I made my way back to the gully with the gun. The wallaby was in exactly the same spot, still as a statue like it hadn’t so much as twitched a muscle. Surely even I couldn’t miss with a chest shot.
Bang! At least I’d got my prey moving! And then, a much bigger wallaby, startled from its own stillness, bounded off from no more than twenty metres away! No time to ponder the implications of now having not one, but two wallabies roaming our land.
Wounded, the animal could no longer hop but moved fast enough to prevent me from closing the gap. Desperate not to lose sight of it I somehow managed to squeeze between an electrified outrigger and a boundary fence, and then over the fence’s barbed top wire without the experience being electrifying or dangly bits getting skewered! The wallaby had gone under the fence where there’s a bit of gouging out as a result of the creek that flows down the catchment after heavy rain.
It weaved in and out of fallen willow branches beneath the ancient crack willows of the gully floor. I had no idea as to where the bullet had struck, but by this stage it had effectively slowed it sufficiently for me to keep up. I’d assumed there’d be quite a chase before I could flush it out from under the cover it was finding under the trees. Instead, the wallaby doubled back. Miraculously, I negotiated the fence and outrigger once again with all my bits intact.
The grass is quite short in the gully from having the cows in there recently. So, the wallaby was fully in my sights as, the injury taking its toll, it paused long enough for me to pull the trigger.
One down! How many more to go?