Search for an endangered mouse – Part 1

February 24, 2009 by
Filed under: Australian Mammals 
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Rats and mice, YUK! Most people find them disgusting creatures that spread disease, can bite you and leave a mess of droppings and stink in your kitchen or shed. Not me, I actually spend some of my time trying to save some of our Australian rodents from going extinct!

Native rodents (65 species) comprise about one quarter of all Australian land mammals, and I have the privilege of being involved with the study of one of our most endangered mice, the Hastings River Mouse.

Hasting River Mouse 3 - blog

The Hastings River Mouse is much bigger than a typical house mouse, and is more the size of a rat. The female in the above photo was 102g (about 3.6 oz) and was captured at the base of an old tree stump amongst some sedges and grass.

Why, where and how do I study these creatures?

There are lots of things to consider. Where do I look? How do I trap them without injuring them? Do they bite? What do I need to know about their biology? What else might I trap? What are some safety considerations? Why trap at all? Who cares if they go extinct?

Mmmm, lots of questions. The most important one is why trap at all. All trapping exercises are costly in terms of time and equipment and can put already endangered animals at risk. But, we need to know if the numbers of animals are declining and ground trapping is the most effective method of determining the status of these animals.

Our latest trapping event was in the beautiful Mt Royal National Park and an adjoining property north of Singleton in the New South Wales Hunter Valley.

Hasting River Mouse Habitat 1 - blog

Mt Royal National park is excellent habitat for the Hastings River Mouse, tall moist forest of manna gum and New England blackbutt at around 700m in elevation. The forest floor has excellent cover of grasses and sedges and herbs that the mouse feeds upon and provides cover from predators such as the spotted-tailed quoll and introduced foxes.

Typically, good habitat for the Hastings River Mouse includes lots of fallen timber and logs and the majority of captures are near to this ground habitat.

How do I know where to look?

The first record of a Hastings River Mouse in Mt Royal National Park area was a jaw bone discovered in an owl pellet (a regurgitated mass of bones and feathers). Since this discovery, there have been several surveys for the Hastings River Mouse in the Mt Royal area and this year I did my second trapping session in the area.

How do I trap them?

The photo below gives you a clue, but you’ll have to wait for part 2 for more information.

Hasting River Mouse Capture Site 3b - blog

To see more photos click here


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