You’ve met Rufus McWallaby before.
(Rufus from Macropus rufogriseus (Red necked wallaby), and well, he has a fluffy sporran)
Since just before Christmas he has spent quite a few days (and probably a lot of nights) on my back lawn. He’s a very welcome visitor as I haven’t had to mow a blade of grass in seven months, even if he’s a bit jumpy (sorry, it’s hard to resist that pun), meaning I have to avoid the garden at various times or risk sending him skittering out onto the road.
Plus it’s kind of flattering that he thinks my place is a safe place to stay.
Since we finally got some rain this month I haven’t seen him in daylight – I figured he was finding enough food up the hill. In fact I was even starting to think I might have to mow some edges soonish. Then this weekend a neighbour came in about 11am to tell me she had just herded “your wallaby” across the road from her front yard. She said she usually sees him cross the road and go into my yard about 6 in the morning. When she saw him in her shrubs late in the morning and went outside she noticed he seemed hurt. (Please note he is not the only wallaby around here – driving in last week after dark I caught 2 smaller wallabies munching on my front lawn, and 4 or more have been seen in the school grounds at night). But she knew it was my wallaby because it had a black face (all Bennett’s wallabies do!) She also thought it was a pregnant female. I think Rufus might be insulted by that)
I finally found him hiding between some trees. He was very definitely hurt, couldn’t put one hind leg to the ground, and was favouring one forepaw as well on the same side. He was very nervy, not even letting me get my usual 15m away. Obviously every move hurt.
So I called Bonorong Park who sent two volunteers to capture him.
I kinda assumed someone would arrive with a tranquilizer gun, and then he’d be put down. Wallabies are incredibly easy to stress out and he’s no baby, he wouldn’t take kindly to being handled or enclosed. But apparently even vets can’t fire a tranquiliser gun within 200m of a dwelling (which means even if he was out in the reserve up the hill they’d have had to catch him first!) – stupid laws. So three of us armed with a couple of hessian bags tried to corner him and grab his tail. Now, I know this strategy works with small wallabies, I’ve done it often with the joey I raised. But he was tame, and half grown, and he still managed to knock a grown man out cold once. Even though Rufus couldn’t put one foot to the ground, he could still move the other one! I kept visualising the broken leg I’d get if I was standing behind him trying to lift his tail. It didn’t matter anyway, he was too agile, and my garden has too many trees and no corners. All we were doing was stressing him out and putting him through more pain. The volunteers suggested I ring them again once he was weaker and had slowed down.
Rufus went back to hiding under a bush (I felt like the world’s worst person for ruining his sense of sanctuary here, he’d never ever hidden under the bushes before) I cried at the thought of having to watch him slowly succumb to the pain and whatever other injuries he had received (We assume he had a run in with a vehicle).
I checked (from the windows) a few times to make sure he hadn’t left the yard (No gates even if I wanted to close him in). Then mid afternoon he had vanished. I went out to try and see him, and rounded the corner to find him struggling to his feet a few metres away, up against the house (directly under the study window). I backed away and he settled down again – right in front of the A/C outlet. He didn’t bother moving when it started blasting freezing air at him an hour later (But I felt guilty about my heat.).
I went into the city and got some wallaby pellets. I figure he’ll be less likely to leave the yard if food is abundant. Of course everywhere I scattered them he’d move to another part of the yard. He was clearly telling me he didn’t trust me any more. Sunday night I saw him in torch light, he’d found at least some of the pellets.
Monday morning he was still in the garden (in fact he was sitting right where my lillies should be coming up). Then he moved up near the house again. Then he got startled and crawled under the agapanthus for hours. Finally saw him actually eat in the late afternoon. I was starting to think his back might be injured, He never straightened up into classic wallaby pose.
Early this morning I found him under the clothesline, standing up straight in the torchlight. He was under the window this morning, so I dropped some pellets near him which he moved to.
Then he moved to a dozen other spots around the yard, eating constantly and sitting up in all his classic positions. He stripped leaves off the rosemary and the plumbago, ripped the grass out from between pots, even tugged at a geranium stump.
His hind foot is very definitely broken.
He keeps it off the ground and it dangles limply at the toes. Bonorong say they have seen them heal (to a point) without treatment, if they get somewhere and don’t move. So long as he stays in the yard he should be safe, but if he tries to go up the hill again, he’ll have no chance against the traffic (or even a dog).
If he’s sensible I won’t get to weed this garden (yes, that’s a garden, the lawn is 3mm tall and evenly chewed) until after Spring! But most of me doesn’t mind that I won’t get any seedlings in. Not when there’s something even cuter to look at.