Kangaroos sour vintage
With vintage starting across the region this week, some vineyard operators are desperate to control rising damage from the region’s booming kangaroo population.
But wineries have not been keen to speak about the issue or seek help, fearing a public backlash against shooting kangaroos in big numbers.
Margaret River kangaroo control operator Peter Stonehouse said leading up to vintage he was employed by “a lot” of wineries to control kangaroo numbers.
“I have been really busy at the moment,” he said.
“There’s a lot of damage that’s been caused.
“Now and the next few weeks, they’ll go through fences hypnotic to get the sweetness of the grape.
“The roos go along the vines and eat the shoots, and during harvest they claw at bunches of grapes.
“That has an enormous effect on vineyards.”
Mr Stonehouse said there was a “definite increase” in kangaroo populations, with the animals eating up to 150kg of grapes a day, but many vineyard operators were hesitant to admit they needed kangaroos culled.
The Times spoke to several vineyard managers and winery owners who said controlling kangaroos was a “sensitive” issue.
Winemakers said public scrutiny around the control of native animals could ruin their reputation in the tourism sector, and despite them obtaining permits to shoot, neighbours would call the police when they heard gunshots.
Some vineyard managers said they had installed exclusion fences but fencing wasn’t keeping the kangaroos out and shooting was a last resort to maintain profits.
Australian Society for Kangaroos’ Nikki Sutterby rejected claims of a population boom and said kangaroo numbers in the South West had stabilised and there were “catastrophically low densities across most of the State”.
“In regards to claims that kangaroos are a pest and cause damage to agriculture and forests, there is no scientific evidence to support this, with various independent and government research reports confirming that kangaroos do not cause the damage to agriculture that is often claimed,” she said.
“In regard to the (population) in the South West, 2016 Government data shows stable populations for kangaroos in this area with average densities of just 16 kangaroos per square kilometre which equates to 16 kangaroos per 60 football fields.
“This is not a plague.”
Margaret River commercial kangaroo culler David Payne echoed Mr Stonehouse’s comments and said he was employed by several local wineries to control kangaroo numbers during the course of the year.
“The kangaroos eat the grapes, play around with the sprinkler system, eat the leaf buds and generally trash the vineyards, really,” he said.
“I’m called out by a winery at least every two weeks.”
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