LIAM Smith's first encounter with a koala ended unexpectedly when he was told to put the animal in the boot of his car.
Bizarre as it sounded, it was life-saving for the female koala which had been struck by car on the Bruce Hwy near the Gold Nugget.
It was a lucky break for both the koala and Mr Smith, who had only pulled over because the car in front slammed on its brakes "out of nowhere" and stopped by the side of the road.
Jumping out of the car, Mr Smith was greeted by the koala sitting in the middle of the road, at 11.30pm on a Saturday night.
"We both hopped out, introduced ourselves to each other and tried to figure out a game plan," he said of the drivers.
"I didn't know whether or not koalas were vicious."
While the drivers debated what to do, the koala strolled onto the traffic island and then, horrify- ingly, in front of an oncoming car.
"It has walked straight out in front of this ute which made no attempt to stop or slow down at all," Ms Smith said.
The koala was struck by the steel tray, and knocked into the road with "a horrible noise".
"Another second earlier and it would have gone straight under the tyre," Mr Smith said.
Thinking it was dead, Mr Smith carried it back to the roadside and went to find a jacket to cover it.
He came back to find the situation had changed considerably.
"It was trying to walk away," he said.
Faced with an injured koala, Mr Smith called a wildlife carer while the other driver kept it safe.
"He said the best thing to do in your situation was put it in your boot," he said.
He handed the koala to the carer at midnight.
He still cannot understand why the ute driver could be so cruel to not stop.
"Why wouldn't you?" he said.
"The brake lights didn't even come on, he didn't even slow down or swerve.
"If we didn't do what we did, he would have hit
her and she would have laid on the road and probably got collected by a truck."
The koala is at a Widgee home to recover.
Mr Smith asked people to be careful to protect the region's wildlife.
Any koala sighting can be logged on koalatracker.net to keep track of the animals during their mating season.
Mr Smith said the ordeal was a memorable chance to help a national icon.
"If it wasn't so angry and ready to claw my throat out I would have given it a big hug," he said.
"I don't think she was in the mood for that at the time."
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