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Seen a drunken kangaroo lately?

Kangaroos can develop chronic phalaris toxicity, or ‘staggers’ as it is commonly referred to in sheep, which causes neurological damage in animals that have eaten Phalaris grasses (also known as canary grass).

Phalaris is a common pasture crop, probably introduced to the Winton Wetlands site at the time of European settlement (and grazing) in the area.   When grown under certain conditions, the young growth of some phalaris grass species can be toxic to animals that graze on it.

Phalaris is a widespread environmental weed and a fire hazard on the site and Winton Wetlands aims to actively reduce phalaris cover through a combination of methods including stock grazing, slashing, spraying, prescribed fire and revegetation (increased competition).

Symptoms commonly seen in kangaroos that have chronic phalaris toxicity poisoning include muscle tremors and abnormal or erratic movement, continued shaking of the head and repeated falling over, giving the appearance that the kangaroo is “drunk” or “staggering”.

Phalaris toxicity can’t be confirmed through the presence of symptoms alone and requires post-mortem examination of the brain and exclusion of other causes to fully diagnose the condition.

Currently there is no known treatment for this condition in wildlife and unfortunately animals most severely affected often require euthanasia or humane killing for animal welfare reasons (for example, if the kangaroo is unable to move and graze or escape predators).


Source: Wildlife Victoria – (

  • If you observe a kangaroo showing signs of chronic phalaris toxicity poisoning please contact Benalla Wildlife Rescue on 0438 969 117.  You can also report it to the Winton Wetlands Project office (57664462) or the DEECA Customer Contact Centre on 136 186.
  • Some useful further information from an ABC News story back in 2018:


Posted 27 May 2024