WILDLIFE ecologist Associate Professor Graeme Coulson says a careful approach to managing the Kangaroo Harvest Program is needed as the impact of fires, drought, and other environmental problems on populations are not yet known.
The state government has put the Kangaroo Harvesting Program on hold while the impact of the bushfire crisis on wildlife is assessed.
"The population estimates that the (shooting) quotas are based on go back to September last year," he said.
"There's no way anything in Gippsland would have an impact on anything on going on in the Wimmera from a kangaroo point of view, so you're talking about local impacts, whether that's fire, drought or dust storms, so certainly a lack of feed would impact stock and kangaroos.
"The dry conditions ... mean the populations won't be quite so good as they were then, so they've fallen quite a bit and no one really will know (how populations are faring) until a survey is done, so that could be part of (the state government's decision) - it's not necessarily fire as such but just the broader hotter and drier conditions.
"At the very least they would have to reappraise the quotas and that would mean another survey."
Dr Coulson added that the fire season was not yet over.
"There is a possibility of future fires in places like the Grampians or the Black Ranges, or Langi Ghiran, and that would certainly involve farmland and bushland remnants and have an impact on kangaroos there," he said.
A government spokeswoman said: "Our focus right now is on fighting the ongoing fires, and helping people in affected communities as they recover, including support for livestock and rehabilitating wildlife."
"Harvest quotas for 2020 have not yet been determined and the Kangaroo Harvesting Program has been temporarily suspended."
Harvesters may still apply for quota allocations, but these will not be approved until the program is operational again.
The Stawell Times-News has contacted Victorian Petfood Processors for comment but did not receive a response.
Victorian Farmers Federation Wimmera president Graeme Maher called the decision to stop shooters culling and selling kangaroos a "knee-jerk" reaction.
"I can see why they are doing it, and I have sympathy for the other half of the state, but the reality is half the state hasn't really been affected (by bushfires), so I'm not sure why it's a statewide decision not to cull," he said.
"Over this side 'roo numbers are getting worse and have been for a long time. The reality is the pet food ban doesn't change much for us - we can still get permits to cull them if we can prove they are pests on our properties.
"We just can't use the carcasses, so now we just leave them where they are, which attracts foxes."
Mr Maher said state government representatives would come and collect kangaroo carcasses as a service to the farmers as part of the pet fool trial.
"It points out short-term thinking to long-term issues," he said.
"When I was young it used to be a novelty to see a kangaroo. Fifty years on there are a few roads past Murtoa with 60km/h limits where we will see kangaroos and hopefully we don't hit them.
"The pet food industry was a way to do something useful with the carcasses."
Animal Justice Party Member for Western Victoria Andy Meddick called for a moratorium on kangaroo harvesting just prior to the government's announcement.
"Wildlife that have survived these unbelievable bushfires are still under threat of being gunned down in Victoria - for both profit and recreation," he said.
"That's why in the midst of Victoria's bushfire crisis, I'm calling for a moratorium on the duck shooting season, a cessation of permits to cull kangaroos and an end to wombat shooting while these animals are fighting for their lives across the state.
"The outpouring of support from across the world is a testament to how much our precious wildlife is valued. Yet, the impact of allowing wildlife slaughter to continue could be catastrophic - potentially putting whole species at risk of extinction.
"Following unprecedented bushfires, much of our iconic wildlife is living on borrowed time. We must focus on their conservation - not allow their destruction. And if we don't do it now, they could be gone for good."
The state government has also announced a $17.5 million rescue package that will target Victoria's most at-risk species.