A phantom kangaroo is a report of kangaroos, wallabies, or their accompanying footprints in areas where there is no native population. Some explanations put forth are escaped zoo or circus animals (as in the UK), or publicity stunts by local businesses using photographs from Australia. Others suggest outbreaks of such sightings are a form of mass hysteria.
It is sometimes said there is a population of kangaroos living in the wild in the township of Émancé, about 50 km south-west of Paris. In fact, they are red-necked wallabies. These wallabies are descended from a breeding population which escaped a zoological reserve in the 1970s.
Between 2003 and 2010, there was a series of phantom kangaroo sightings in the Mayama mountain district of Ōsaki, Miyagi city in Miyagi Prefecture
In 1831 two men off the Sydney Packet reported to the Collector of Customers in Australia that they had seen a giant kangaroo (nine meters in standing) at a small cove in Dusky Sound. They observed it on the bushline from a small boat and when they came too close it leapt into the water and ploughed through the water, leaving a wake extending from end of the sound to the other.
Kawau Island in the Hauraki Gulf has a colony of three species of wallabies descending from a deliberate introduction by Sir George Grey, a nineteenth century Governor.
New Zealand also has a wild population of Wallabies in the Waimate district in the South Island that were introduced for hunting in the late 19th century.
Documented colonies of red-necked wallabies exist in the United Kingdom. In Staffordshire, a breeding colony established itself after breaking loose from a private zoo in Leek, Staffordshire in the 1930s. Their population seems to have peaked in the 1970s, reaching numbers between 60 and 70. There were no confirmed sightings of the wallabies between 2000 and 2007, with some locals believing they must have died out. In 2009, newspapers reported wallaby sightings (including clear pictures) that made reference to sightings in 2008. Other Wallaby colonies exist in the UK, including reliable reports from the Fenland on the Norfolk/Lincolnshire border; and there are a few in Ashdown Forest, Sussex.
Subsequent sightings have been made including a report of a Bennett’s wallaby filmed by zoologist Maurice Melzak in Highgate Cemetery, Hampstead, London in October 2013, and an albino wallaby in Northamptonshire in 2015.
In Scotland, Inchconnachan, an island in Loch Lomond has a population of wallabies as well. Lady Arran Colquhoun introduced them in the 1920s.
In 1934 near South Pittsburg, Tennessee an atypical kangaroo or “kangaroo-like beast” was reported by several witnesses over a five-day period, and to have killed and partially devoured several animals, including ducks, geese, a German Shepherd police dog and other dogs. Kangaroos are typically unaggressive and vegetarian. A witness described the animal as looking “like a large kangaroo, running and leaping across a field.” A search party followed the animal’s tracks to a mountainside cave where they stopped. The animal was never found, and national news coverage drew widespread ridicule.
In 1974 in Chicago, Illinois, two Chicago police officers were called to investigate a report that a kangaroo was standing in someone’s porch. After a brief search, the officers located the animal in an alleyway, but were unable to capture it. Over the next month, numerous kangaroo sightings were reported in Illinois and the neighboring states of Indiana and Wisconsin, with timing suggesting more than one animal if reports were accurate. A kangaroo was seen the next day by a paperboy, the next week in Schiller Woods, Illinois, and the week after that just outside Plano, Illinois, reported by a police officer who said it jumped eight feet from a field into the road. Thirty minutes later a kangaroo was reported back in Chicago, then reported on the following three days in the surrounding countryside. A few days later, there were a rash of sightings in Indiana. Reports ceased about a month after the original story.
In 1978 in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, two men photographed a large kangaroo beside the highway. Author Loren Coleman, described as the “leading authority on North American kangaroo sightings”, suggested the animal looked like a Bennett’s wallaby.
In 2013 in Oklahoma a kangaroo was reportedly recorded by hunters in a field. The video was published on the website YouTube, and prompted speculation that the animal may be a pet kangaroo who went missing in the state just over a year earlier.
Also in 2013, The Ridgefield Press reported that a motorist in North Salem, New York captured on video what he thought was a kangaroo, and published the video on their website. The newspaper noted that escaped wallabies, smaller than kangaroos, were known in Westchester County, which encompasses North Salem. Several people in the county had kept wallabies as pets.