Search for the Brush Tailed Phascogale
A group of wildlife enthusiasts recently spent several wet and cold days searching the Wombat Forest for the Brush-tailed Phascogale and their hard work was rewarded when one of the elusive creatures was found.
Biodiversity staff from the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) and environmental students from the University of Ballarat joined forces with local volunteers to look for the shy, nocturnal creature in the hope of finding that the small population is stable, healthy and not in decline.
DEPI Senior Biodiversity Officer Andy Arnold, who has been monitoring phascogales for many years, coordinated the five-day survey in Hepburn Regional Park.
The last few days we've been setting up a survey grid to study some trends in Brush Tailed Phascogales which occurs in this area. We've been looking at a range of vegetation types and different habitat areas within a broad area bounded by part of the northern Wombat Forest, part of the Yandoit area, and the Hepburn Regional Park.
Fragmentation of habitat is a major threat and what is happening and has happened over the years since settlement in Victoria, is that some of the forest habitat areas have become separated, where as previously they would have been linked together. There are still linkages there, through areas like road reserves and natural patches of bush on both public and private land, but gradually some of those linkages have disappeared or declined. That is a major concern. One of the reasons we are doing the genetic study is to see to what extent fragmentation might be occurring in a genetic sense.
When we get Brush Tailed Phascogales in our Elliot traps, we carefully remove them from the traps (which we only do after establishing a suitable release site), weigh them, check their sex, and then take a DNA sample from the animals. This assists us in the long term to look at what we call the population management units which exist across the state. So all of the procedures we go through are designed to provide useful information in terms of longer term management.
I have to admit that I'm enamoured by Brush Tailed Phascogales. I've always liked them and they've always appealed to me. I think that they're an under-recognised and under-valued part of our fauna. For that reason I'd like to see much more known about them and also that many people become aware of them, their uniqueness and their beauty. They are a unique animal.