One of the koalas being cared for by Friends of the Koala in Lismore.
One of the koalas being cared for by Friends of the Koala in Lismore. Contributed

Koala alert: Determined animals are active on roadways

LISMORE-based Friends of the Koala have pleaded with motorists to take more care as koalas become more active on North Coast roads.

Friends of the Koala president Roslyn Irwin urged motorists to be on high alert for koalas.

A koala was spotted at the St Helena Tunnel on the Pacific Highway, just days after the ABC released footage of a truck driver ignoring RMS directions and running over a koala, killing it, in the same location last year.

Ms Irwin said while they believed there were some issues with wildlife fencing, even the best barricade couldn't stop a determined koala.

As young males are turfed from their colonies and go in search of a new habitat and food, this often drives them onto dangerous roadways, she said.

"From our experience it would be great to make sure all the koala fencing is in place, however that is unlikely to stop a determined koala," Ms Irwin said.

"We have images of them where they have got under fence.

"One tried to get under a fence and was choked to death.

"They are very determined animals and they follow their instinct."

Ms Irwin said she had "absolutely no criticism" of the RMS or monitors of the St Helena Tunnel when a koala was killed last year.

"It was one incident with one truck driver who disobeyed the rules," she said.

"This was most unfortunate because the animal was not able to move.

"Susanna (from Friends of the Koala) was no more than two minutes away from the tunnel when the truck driver ran it over."

Ms Irwin said she understood the driver had been laid off and hoped he "would be remorseful".

Meanwhile, she urged motorists to be aware koalas are out and about.

"All people can do is keep their eyes open for koalas on the road because they're very much on the road at the moment," she said.

"Young males in particular are being kicked out of their colonies."

A Roads and Maritime Services spokesman said their staff carried out regular inspections of wildlife fencing.

He said any damages were fixed "as soon as possible".

"At the completion of the Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade, there will be about 450km of wildlife fencing on the Pacific Highway," he said.

"Existing maintenance procedures are being reviewed and updated to ensure they remain suitable when the upgrade is complete.

"Motorists are advised to stay alert, reduce their speed, brake safely and never swerve if they encounter animals on the road.

"It is particularly important for motorists to pay attention under changed traffic conditions, as failure to do so increases the risk of a crash and injury."

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