Australia's kangaroo roadkill litters outback highways

CUNNAMULLA, Australia, Aug 29 (Reuters) - A road crew pulls their truck off the side of a lonely stretch of highway in Australia's outback. One of them jumps from the vehicle and grabs a hook stained red with blood.

He plunges the hook into a kangaroo carcass and the truck drags it off the road, removing a hazard to motorists.

It's a gory ritual the crew performs 50 to 60 times a day on the "roo run" - nearly 62 miles of highway between the towns of Bourke and Enngonia in the state of New South Wales.

Kangaroos and emus, the two animals on Australia's coat of arms, are common in this part of the outback and "roadkill" - the name given to animals hit by cars or trucks - is often littering the sides of roads.

Recent heavy rains have resulted in the normally dry, red soil giving way to an abundance of green grass and colorful flowers, and in turn led to a dramatic increase in the population of kangaroos and emus, the country's largest bird.

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Australia's kangaroo roadkill litters outback highways
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Australia's kangaroo roadkill litters outback highways
A kangaroo stands on a disused railway line located on the outskirts of Bourke in outback Australia, August 9, 2017. Picture taken August 9, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
The sheep-dog of farmer Tony Reid jumps up onto him as he inspects a water trough in a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
The tyre tracks left by farmer Tony Reid's truck can be seen in a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Farmer Tony Reid bends down to feel the ground on a claypan as he inspects a paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Farmer Tony Reid looks at a water-tank and ditch while inspecting a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Farmer Tony Reid opens a gate as he inspects drought-effected paddocks on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
A dead kangaroo, that got it's paw caught in a fence, can be seen in a paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
A kangaroo jumps in front of farmer Tony Reid's truck in a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
A worker uses a hook to drag a dead emu thats was killed by traffic on the highway between the towns of Bourke and Enngonia in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
A kangaroo jumps in a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
A mob of sheep gather around farmer Tony Reid's truck as he prepares to drop grain for them in a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Farmer Tony Reid casts a shadow as he walks across a claypan while inspecting a paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
The remains of a kangaroo killed by traffic can be seen on the highway on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
A kangaroo jumps in a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Dead moths and bugs can be seen on the windscreen of farmer Tony Reid's truck as he inspects a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Farmer Tony Reid walks away after checking a water trough in a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
A group of kangaroos can be seen in a paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
The paw of a kangaroo killed by traffic can be seen on the side of the highway on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
The remains of an emu can be seen near a worker as he uses a hook to drag a dead kangaroo, both which were killed by traffic, off a highway between the towns of Bourke and Enngonia in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
A native Australian bird known as an Emu walks across the highway between the towns of Bourke and Enngonia in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Farmer Tony Reid casts a shadow as he walks past a water trough located in a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Farmer Tony Reid walks behind a mob of sheep after he dropped grain for them in a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
A kangaroo killed by a truck can be seen on the main road towards the outback Queensland town of Stonehenge in Australia, August 12, 2017. Picture taken August 12, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
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A bounding adult kangaroo weighing up to 198 pounds or a flightless adult emu in full stride at 30 mph can cause serious, even fatal, road crashes.

Drivers are required to equip the front of their vehicles with metal "bullbars" to deflect the animals and minimize damage.

Airports are taking precautions too.

Bourke's town council ordered "roo runs" ahead of night landings after a Royal Flying Doctor Service plane collided with a kangaroo in August as the aircraft was trying to land.

The kangaroo had burrowed under the airport security fencing in search of fresh green grass to eat, the council said on its website last Friday.

"Fortunately, no one was injured, however, the plane did suffer damage to the propeller and motor and it was unable to be flown without repairs," the council said.

WOMBATS AND WALLABIES HIT TOO

Australian insurer AAMI said in April an analysis of 20,000 accident insurance claims showed New South Wales was the top state for animal collisions.

"Across all states, kangaroos are reportedly the most commonly hit animal, with four out of five claims attributed to kangaroos," said AAMI spokesperson Ashleigh Paterson.

Wombats, cattle and wallabies are also among frequently hit animals, she added.

"Wildlife is unpredictable and can appear out of nowhere so it’s vital to be extra cautious, particularly in areas which high volumes of wildlife," Paterson said.

Aside from posing a major danger to motorists, kangaroos compete with farm animals for feed and water, farmers complain.

Kahmoo Station, a cattle and sheep property on the outskirts of the southwest Queensland town of Cunnamulla, has seen an explosion of kangaroos and emus on the 80,000-acre (32,000-hectare) property, said farmer Tony Reid.

When he is driving in a paddock, just the sheer numbers makes it extremely difficult for him to avoid hitting a kangaroo.

Emus are a challenge too because "they are unpredictable and can be running away, but turn sharply back into your path," he said. Fortunately they are lighter than kangaroos and cause less damage, Reid added.

The dry winter at Kahmoo Station this year means kangaroos and emus will seek fresh feed, and that usually means a roadside where the early morning dew creates fresh green shoots.

It also creates the conditions for more roadkill.

(Editing by Michael Perry and Darren Schuettler)

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