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A 'roo awakening in a few Australian suburbs

With Australia in the grip of a searing drought, kangaroos are hopping out of the outback into the suburbs of Melbourne in search of food and water. About three dozen kangaroos have been seen near Eltham, Diamond Creek, and other suburbs. Mavericks among them have hopped along busy highways and over fences into backyards.

Suburbanites have been told to lock up their sheep and horses - and drive carefully. Rangers say horses, and perhaps sheep, can be startled and stampeded by the sight of a large kangaroo leaping out of a thicket.

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Urban dwellers also have been told that kangaroos generally are shy and should not be shot. The law protects them from being killed except as authorized by wildlife authorities. Opponents of their protection say a population explosion is helping to drive the animals off open land, but backers say the drought is endangering the marsupials.

Rangers say kangaroos may become an even more common urban sight if the drought worsens.

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