A woman in Australia who was attacked by a wombat in a suburban street in the country’s capital city has said that she thought she was going to be killed by the deceptively docile looking marsupial.
Wombats, although extremely powerful animals, are usually peaceful vegetarians, but it didn’t look that way when Kerry Evans became involved in the violent fracas on the streets of Canberra, which left her nursing more than 20 bites and lacerations, three of which required stitches.
Evans was walking her two dogs when they came across the marsupial grazing in a front garden. The surprised animal charged towards her dogs, who panicked and knocked her over, where she found herself on the wrong end of what she thought could be a potentially mortal wombat attack.
‘I was laying screaming for help, I couldn’t get away from it, every time I managed to get up it attacked me and bit me and knocked me to the ground,’ she explained to the Canberra Times. ‘I really thought I was going to lay there and die that night because I just couldn’t see how I was going to get away from it, it just wasn’t stopping its attack.’
Eventually, however, she was rescued by a neighbour and a passing driver, who took control of her dogs and allowed her to scramble away.
It’s not the first time a wombat attack has been reported—the last serious one happened in 2010, when a 60-year-old man was hospitalised after being mauled by a wombat he’d surprised outside his caravan—but they are extremely rare, and it’s the first known incident of its kind in Canberra.
Adult wombats, which can get to a metre in length and reach a peak fighting weight of 35kg, are known to be potentially aggressive, particularly when they feel threatened. And, although Aussies refer to them as a ‘keg on legs’, they’re also extremely fast moving over short distances, with an average running speed of 40km per hour over 100 metres (faster than Usain Bolt, who runs that distance at an average of 35.8km per hour).
Dogs (traditionally dingoes) are their nemesis, and one way in which wombats are known to turn defence into attack is by legging it away to a burrow, and then using their bony bums (possible armoured for this very use) to crush the pursuing predator’s head against the dirt roof.
Talking to the media after the freak incident in Canberra, ACT Wildlife service’s Martin Lind said the animals were deceptively fast ‘little bulldozers’, and aren’t as cute and cuddly as commonly portrayed.
‘As babies, they’re clingy, they’re adorable, they’re with mum 24 hours a day, they’re in a soft, snuggly sleeping bag all the time listening to a heart beat,’ Lind told the Canberra Times.
‘When they start to mature and hit puberty, they just hate everybody and everything. They go from running between your legs and cute as a button to being absolute little…can I swear?…little shits. They nip you, they wreck, they bite. I won’t look after wombats because you kiss goodbye to your flooring and everything. They just destroy everything.’
James Woodford, author of The Secret Life of Wombats, agreed, saying that adult wombats can ‘knock you over like a skittle.’
‘They’re really only good around people while they’re babies,’ Woodford told The Guardian. ‘The image of the cute and cuddly wombat is a load of hogwash.’
Meanwhile, further north in Australia, police are looking for four men who broke into a school in Humpty Do, near Darwin, and released three saltwater crocodiles.
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