Dama wallaby Macropus eugenii

About this Pest

KEY CLUES

Distinctive features: Looks like a small grey-brown kangaroo with a pale underbelly. A thin white stripe runs from under the eye to the nose. Adults sometimes have a reddish brown patch across their shoulders.

Size: One of the smallest wallaby species established in New Zealand, about 450–530 mm in height. Females weigh 3.3–5.5 kg, males weigh 4.3–7.5 kg.

Droppings: Pear-shaped, about 20 mm long and black or brown in colour.

Footprints: Long narrow footprint, two toes (inner-most toe is largest). Hind part of the hind feet, fore paws and tail only occasionally leave marks in soft ground.

Kill signs: not applicable (herbivore).

Vegetation damage: Grazing on pasture, understorey browse in native forests and shrublands, damage to exotic forestry seedlings.

Dentition: Not possible to differentiate the bite marks of dama wallabies from possums on wax tags or chew cards.

Eye shine: Greenish-yellow.

Distribution: Found within a 200,000-hectare area east of Rotorua, and on Kawau Island.

WHY ARE DAMA WALLABY PESTS?

Unwanted Organism

Dama wallaby are classified as an Unwanted Organism under New Zealand’s Biosecurity Act 1993. Bennett’s wallaby, parma wallaby, brushtailed rock wallaby and swamp wallaby are also classified as unwanted organisms in New Zealand. It is an offence, under the Biosecurity Act, to knowingly move, release or otherwise them.

In the Bay of Plenty, if you see a dama wallaby or wallaby sign (footprints or droppings) near to or outside of the current distribution (i.e. anywhere west of Rotorua, east of Kawerau or south of Maungakakaramea (Rainbow Mountain), please enter a wallaby sighting report via the Bay of Plenty Regional Council ArcGIS reporting system.

Ecological impacts

Dama wallabies have the potential to cause significant browse damage to the understorey of New Zealand’s indigenous forests, altering the species composition and changing the pattern of forest succession. Vegetation surveys at Ōkataina near Rotorua showed heavy browsing by dama wallabies; when dama wallabies were excluded from study plots, plant species diversity increased by 57% (between 1984 and 1995).

Other impacts

In exotic plantations, dama wallabies can damage pine and eucalyptus seedlings. On farmland they can compete with livestock for pasture.

Read more about dama wallaby


Droppings

Separate

Dama wallaby pellets are about 20mm long and pear-shaped, although there can be some variability to a more elongated, rounded shape or a more flattened square shape. Droppings are black or brown in colour and typically found in groups of 5 to 10.

Can be confused with:

Dama wallaby pellets could be mistaken for deer, goat or sheep pellets. They are slightly larger than red deer pellets.

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Have a look at all our droppings clues.

Footprints and Tracks

Paws and feet

The most commonly seen dama wallaby footprints are made by the front third of the hind feet. The hind feet are about 150 mm long in total. Dama wallaby have three toes on each of the hind feet but usually only the larger middle toe that points straight ahead and the smaller peripheral (outer) toe show in distinctive two-pronged prints. The small inner-most toe bears little weight and is used for grooming.

Dama wallaby footprints are usually side by side; hopping on their hind feet when moving at speed, with their fore-paws and tail held clear of the ground. When grazing, or moving slowly, dama wallaby adopt a 'penta-pedal' gait using all four feet as well as their tail. When moving forward in this manner they support their weight with their tail and forepaws while they move their hind feet forward. This is normally the only time that the tail, the five-digit fore-paws and the whole of the rear feet will leave prints and the distance between the hind feet will be greater than when they are moving at speed.

Can be confused with:

In the Bay of Plenty a clear dama wallaby footprint is unlikely to be confused with any other species (except on Kawau Island where other wallaby species also occur) but a faint or partial footprint (e.g. only one toe or only the claws) on a hard surface could be confused with a deer, sheep or goat print or possibly a large bird such as a turkey.

Trails and Runs

Dama wallabies tend to move between feeding areas (pasture and forest clearings or edge) and areas of denser cover on a daily basis. Consequently they create obvious ‘pad runs’ that are narrow, well-formed tracks leading between these areas. These are usually most obvious where wallabies push through or under fences along forest/pasture boundaries.

Can be confused with:

Dama wallaby trails in forest and pasture could be confused with trails created by possums or livestock, deer, pigs and feral goats. In some areas it is likely that trails are created by multiple species using them.

Dens and nests

Dama wallabies are primarily nocturnal (come out during the night) and they rest during the day in forest or scrub. They often live in small groups consisting of a dominant male along with subordinate males, females and juveniles. Nesting sites may show multiple body imprints.

Can be confused with:

Dama wallaby nest sites could be confused with those of deer. Check for distinguishing footprints and hair.

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Have a look at all of our tracks.

Vegetation Damage

Understorey (less than 3m)

Due to the small size of dama wallaby (height about 0.5 m), they typically browse the leaves of seedlings, saplings, grasses and ferns that are below 1 m. The leaves are often bitten in half and resemble browse from other introduced mammals. They eat many native species including kamahi (Weinmannia racemosa), māhoe (Melicytus ramiflorus), Coprosma spp, Mānuka/kānuka, ferns, supplejack (Ripogonum scandens), and broadleaf (Griselinia sp.)

Vegetation surveys near Rotorua have shown that hangehange (Geniostoma ligustrifolium), kotukutuku (Fuchsia excorticata), raurēkau (Coprosma grandifolia), karamū (Coprosma robusta), pate (Schefflera digitata) and five finger (Pseudopanax arboreus) are particularly heavily browsed by dama wallabies. Where dama wallabies have access to pasture or grassed clearing a high percentage of their diet consists of pasture species therefore they are considered potential pasture pests.  They occasionally damage to pine and eucalyptus seedlings.

Can be confused with:

Understorey browse by dama wallabies can be confused with browse by deer, feral goats and livestock.

Plant leaves

Due to the small size of dama wallaby (height about 0.5 m), they typically browse seedlings, saplings ferns and grasses that are below 1 m. Like other herbivorous mammals they can bite off part of a leaf, or a whole leaf. The feeding sign is not particularly distinctive.

Can be confused with:

Leaf browse by dama wallabies can be confused with browse by deer, feral goats and livestock.

Fruits and Flowers

In Australia, dama wallabies are known to feed on acacia seeds but in New Zealand there is no information about the extent to which they eat fruit and flowers.

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Kill Sign

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Other Clues

Sound

Dama wallabies will thump their hind feet when disturbed and their hind feet make a distinctive sound as they flee from danger. Females can make a deep screeching sound, particularly when separated from their young.

Can be confused with:

Dama wallaby foot thumping could be confused with the foot thumping of other introduced wallaby species where their distributions overlap (i.e. on Kawau Island).  Deer species, feral goats and sheep also sometimes stomp their feet.

Body covering

Dama wallaby fur is mostly grey-brown, paler in the abdomen and chest areas, with rufous (reddish) shoulders.

Can be confused with:

Dama wallaby fur found in the field could be confused with that of other introduced wallaby species where their distributions overlap (i.e. on Kawau Island), and with the fur of some other mammal species. Wallaby fur should be easily distinguishable from the coarse guard hairs of deer, which have a comparatively large diameter.

Eye shine

Dama wallaby eye-shine is  greenish-yellow in colour.

Can be confused with:

Dama wallaby eye-shine could be confused with eye-shine from cattle or deer and, on Kawau Island, with that of other wallaby species there.

Distribution

The largest – and still expanding – population of dama wallabies in New Zealand is around the Rotorua lakes. They occupy most of the land area east of Rotorua west of Kawerau. They have spread north to Pongakawa and south the Paeroa Range. They occurwest of Rotorua on Mt Ngongotaha into the Mamaku Range.  Dama wallaby are also found on Kawau Island. The only other species of wallaby to occur on mainland New Zealand, is the much larger Bennett’s wallaby (M. rufogriseus) which can be found inland from Timaru in the South Island.

Can be confused with:

Dama wallabies could be confused with other introduced wallaby species where their distributions overlap (i.e. on Kawau Island).

Not the clues you were looking for?

Have a look at all our other clues.


MORE ABOUT DAMA WALLABY

Origin

The dama (or tammar, silver-grey or Kangaroo Island) wallaby is native to Australia, where its once widespread range in southern Australia is now restricted to south-western West Australia. It is also found on several offshore Australian islands.

Description

The dama is one of the smallest of the wallaby species introduced to New Zealand, standing up to half a metre tall. They are grey-brown in colour, with a pale underbelly; a thin white stripe runs from under the eye to the nose. Adults sometimes have a reddish brown patch across their shoulders.

Size and weight

Females generally weigh about 5 kg, while males weigh up to 7.5 kg. Very occasionally in areas of very good habitat (e.g. where they have access to high quality pasture) adult males may exceed 10 kg. Adult dama wallabies are about half a metre tall.

Behaviour

Dama wallabies are principally nocturnal. They live in small groups, hiding in forest or scrub during the day and emerging as a group to feed in grasslands and clearings during the night. When feeding they stand in one location and feed from side to side, then they hop forward to a new spot, using all four feet as well as the tail. They are very alert when feeding and spend quite a bit of time standing, looking around and listening for danger. When threatened, the wallaby faces towards the danger and warns other nearby wallabies with its posture and foot thumping. If disturbed, they will often run a few metres before stopping behind cover to observe the threat. If necessary, they flee by bounding away in a group. Male dama wallabies sometimes threaten each other by grass-pulling or scratching their chests. Occasionally this leads to fights where they kick each other with their hind legs or spar with their forepaws.

Wallabies are marsupials, like the introduced brushtail possum, and carry their young in a pouch. Most births around Rotorua occur in early February, but on Kawau Island occur from late January to March. A single young (known as a joey) is born partially formed, naked and blind. It climbs into its mother’s pouch immediately after birth where it attaches to a teat. The joey is evicted from the pouch to make way for a younger sibling after about eleven months but the mother may continue to suckle the older joey outside the pouch for a few more months.  Female wallabies may retain a fertilised embryo in ‘dipause’within their body for about eleven months, awaiting the pouch becoming available.

Diet

The dama wallaby is principally a grazer but will also commonly browse native shrubs, particularly if living in a forest interior (see vegetation damage clue). Dama wallabies do not need to drink freshwater often as they normally gain sufficient moisture from the plants they eat.

Habitat

Dama wallabies prefer edge habitats, using dense vegetation for shelter during the day and foraging in pasture and along road edges during the night. In the Rotorua area, dama wallabies often inhabit podocarp/tawa/mixed hardwood forest. On Kawau Island, they are common in the dry upland areas.

Other

Six species of wallaby were introduced to New Zealand, of which five (dama, parma, swamp, black-striped, and brushtailed rock wallaby) were liberated onto Kawau Island by Governor Gorge Grey in the 1870s. Only the black-striped wallaby failed to establish. Bennett’s wallaby were liberated in South Canterbury and have recently spread into Otago. In Australia, feral cats have been implicated in the extinction of some dama wallaby populations but it is not known if feral cats prey on wallabies in New Zealand.

How to get rid of it

Night shooting and aerial or hand-laid toxic baits are the main methods used to control dama wallabies. Dama wallabies are sometimes reluctant to feed from bait stations, particularly where they may have to compete with possums to access bait. There are currently no viable trapping methods.

Contact the local regional council or DOC for advice on dama wallaby control.


 FIND MORE INFORMATION IN:

Bay of Plenty Regional Council. (Undated). Dama wallaby Macropus eugenii. Sustainable options, pest animal control, 16. Brochure. Retrieved in March 2017 from https://www.boprc.govt.nz/environment/pest-management/pest-animal-help/dama-wallaby-unwanted-pest/

Department of Conservation. (Undated) Wallabies. Retrieved in March 2017 from http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/things-to-do/hunting/what-to-hunt/wallabies/.

Waikato Regional Council. Wallabies. https://www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/services/regional-services/plant-and-animal-pests/animal-pests/dama-wallaby/

Warburton B. (2005). Dama Wallaby. In: C.M. King (ed.). New Zealand Handbook of Mammals: Second Edition. Oxford University Press.

Wodzicki, K. and Flux, J. E. C. (1967). Guide to introduced wallabies in New Zealand. Tuatara: Volume 15, Issue 2.