Elusive pest scampering about town

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 09/02/2013

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An Australian pest has been spotted on the loose in Timaru's urban area - and no-one knows what to do about it.

The Herald has received several calls from locals about a stray wallaby, spotted wandering everywhere from Otipua Rd to the Timaru New World car park.

Timaruvian Rowena Paddon wrote on the Herald's Facebook page that she lived opposite Matai Cr, and her golden retriever had chased off after the wallaby "at 100 miles an hour".

"Both my kids saw it bounding off with our dog in excited pursuit," she said.

"Needless to say, she didn't have the legs on her to keep up with it.

"I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it."

Wallabies are classed as a pest under the Biosecurity Act but Environment Canterbury is tasked with the management of the population on public land in this region. It is understood the local branch of the Department of Conservation and the SPCA have also been informed.

Highfield Golf Course greenkeeper Todd Burtenshaw also confirmed the wallaby's perambulations. "I saw it scamper across the course about 2.30pm on Thursday.

"There was a men's tournament going on, it popped out of nowhere and dashed away quick as a flash.

"I couldn't believe it but a few of the players also said they saw it," Mr Burtenshaw said.

ECan biosecurity team leader Brent Glentworth said he was unaware of any official sightings, but would speak to the owner if they were found.

"It sounds like someone is trying to keep it as a domestic animal. Either that or it's somehow got on the loose and ended up in the big smoke.

"They're a pest, and technically illegal to own," he said.

"The spread of wallabies in the high country parts of South Canterbury concerns ECan."

Mr Glentworth said wallaby numbers had increased significantly since the dissolution of the centralised wallaby pest control boards in the early 1990s, after farmers voted to move to a user-pays system.

"Wallabies cause major damage to biodiversity values in the high country," he said.

"There have been recent breakthroughs, such as the commissioning of a new toxin specifically to control the wallaby population, which came on to the market last year. However, it's an ongoing problem."

Wallabies are spread across about 300,000 hectares of land in South Canterbury, most notably in the Hunter Hills, the Two Thumb Range and the Kirkliston and Grampian mountains.

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- The Timaru Herald

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