BAER Team – Victorian Fires 2009 – Wildlife and Fauna Assessment

July 11, 2009 by
Filed under: Australian Mammals, Fire 
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Wildlife and Fauna Assessment – Kilmore Murrindindi Fire – Victoria Fires 2009

Assessing the actions that are critical to the recovery of the animals affected by the Kilmore-Murrindindi Fire was one of the first tasks of the BAER fauna team. The fauna team comprised of Doug Beckers Biodiversity Officer NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Lisa Jameson – Fauna Specialist (US Fish and Wildlife Service), Peter Menkhorst – Victorian Fauna Specialist, Ken Griggs- Fauna Specialist (US Fish and Wildlife Service) and Steve Smith – local Flora and fauna expert, Department of Sustainabililty and the Environment.

Murrindindi - Doug Beckers - Lisa Jameson - Peter Menkhorst - Ken Griggs

Doug Beckers, Lisa Jameson, Peter Menkhorst and Ken Griggs, BAER Fauna Team

Assessing the critical impacts on Fauna and Wildlife is a huge task as the  fire we worked on was 100km across by 50km wide and affected a range of ecosystems. So how do you decide what are the fauna and wildlife most at risk from such a huge fire?

Consulting the experts

One of the first things we did was  make contact with the local experts and seek their advice and opinions.

Steve Smith

Steve Smith, local expert BAER Fauna Team

Steve Smith, officer with the local Department of Sustainability and the Environment was our local contact. We also consulted with other wildlife experts, including David Lindenmayer who has been studying the mountain possums of the Victorian Highlands for many years.

We also made contact with local wildlife carers who had a wealth of knowledge about the local fauna and the issues associated with the wildfires.

Travelling the landscape

We also undertook over a week of travelling through the burnt landscape looking at the affects of the fire in wildlife examining such things as degree of burning, examining areas that were unburnt within the main burnt area which may act as wildlife refugees, and looking at areas adjoining the main burnt area that may act as “seed” areas where wildlife can come from to colonise the burnt area once the vegetation and habitat redevelops. The affect of the fire on the landscape was, of course, devastating.

Visiting areas such as Strath Creek, Reedy Creek, Wandong, Heathcote Junction, Mt Disappointment State Forest, Tolangi and Toolangi State Forest, Murrindindi, Buxton, Lake Mountain, Yarra Ranges National Park, Marysville Yea, Alendra and Taggerty we saw a vast range of fire affects and met some fantastic people who shared with us some amazing stories about the fire and people.

Mt Dissapointment State Forest

Mount Disappointment State Forest - February 2009

However, in terms of wildlife, there were some areas that escaped the wrath of the fire, such as areas that had been previously burnt or areas near wet gullies that were too damp to burn.

Mt Dissapointment State Forest HR

Area within Mt Dissapointment State Forest that escaped the main fire as it was burnt previous to the main fire as part of a fuel reduction program.

Wet gully survives bushfire

Wildfire stalls in wet gully providing refuge for local wildlife.

Through our assessment and travels we developed a list of the most critical species that required emergency actions.

Barred Galaxis – a native fish

Macquarie Perch – a native fish

Leadbeaters possum – a possum that occurs mostly in high mountain forest

Sooty Owl and Powerful Owl.

Stay tuned for another post soon about these species.

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