Search for an endangered mouse – Part 3

April 24, 2009 by
Filed under: Australian Mammals 
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The Good, Bad and the Ugly of searching for the Hastings River Mouse.

Searching for an endangered species sounds like a lot of fun, and quite adventurous also. Finding an endangered animal such as a Hastings River Mouse is a real thrill, and finding several is a hoot!

The trapping I’ve done in the Mt Royal area for the Hastings River Mouse has also been really hard work. The weather has not always been kind to us and there are various other things that can make the tasks somewhat unpleasant, but I’ll explain about these later.

How much effort is required to catch a Hastings River Mouse?

This year, my colleague and I Park Ranger Richard Harris, trapped at two locations, one in the National Park the other at Callicoma Hill just near where the first observation of a Hastings River Mouse was discovered in the Mt Royal area.

At each location we put out 100 traps, four lines of 25, and the traps were placed about 10-15 metres apart. Every trap had a plastic bag to avoid rain affecting the bait and any trapped animal. The traps were checked each morning for 4 mornings and bait replaced, if necessary and all animals trapped were weighed, sexed and marked.

The photo below is from my field book, the left hand page shows the captures and the right page the layout of the plots. On Wednesday 1st April, I trapped an Antechinus stuartii (Brown antechinus) in trap A110, it was a female that weighed 27g and I marked it with white paint on its right rear foot. It was also gravid (pregnant).

The traps at Falbrook were laid in 4 lines, there is a watercourse through the middle of the site and it has a downward slope. Significant captures of the Hastings River Mouse are shown in orange and the trap where they were captured.

Doug Beckers field book - blog

My Field notebook showing captures in Mt Royal National Park

As you can see, the first night at Falbrook resulted in only 1 animal captured out of 100 traps. It would be a mistake though to think that there are hardly any animals at Falbrook. The trapping success rate got better over the 4 nights, and the table below shows the captures at both Callicoma Hill and Falbrook for this year, and the captures from 2 years ago. Another site TC11 was also sampled in 2007.

Captures at Mt Royal 2007-2009

Captures at Mt Royal 2007-2009

As can be seen from the table, a lot of effort is required to trap the Hastings River Mouse. From 400 trap nights (one trap per night is a trap night) at falbrook in 2009, 44 animals were captured, 4 of them were Hastings River Mice. Of these 4 captures, there were 3 individuals as one mouse was recaptured on the last day.

All in all though, a great result to capture and release unharmed 8 Hastings River Mouse at Mt Royal this year. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing!

The bad bits about trapping the Hastings River Mouse

There is a good reason why Richard Harris is wearing a raincoat in the below photo. It started raining on the first night of trapping and then the rain continued, almost continuously, for another 3 days. The traps went out on a Monday and by the Wednesday morning 116mm of rain had fallen, another 67mm on the Thursday morning and we had a reprieve from the rain on the last day as only 5.5mm of rain had fallen. Putting out traps in heavy rain, checking traps and processing animals in the rain can be very unpleasant.

Hasting River Mouse - processing mouse 2 - blog

However, it is because of the rain that the Mt Royal area is so beautiful. Tall mountain forests with lots of wildlfe, including leeches where the waterproof long pants were very effective at keeping at bay.

The ugly…..

Two hundred traps have to be cleaned and washed, you can imagine what some of these traps look like inside. The bait has been smeared all through the trap and the rats, mice and antechinus have left their marks, and droppings etc for me to clean, YUK!

…..and the not so ugly

However, I can’t wait to trap again for the Hastings River Mouse at My Royal, it is a privilege to be able to see these wonderful animals up close and personal. They are quite a placid animal when handled, very different from a bush rat, and have beautiful fur and features.

Hasting River Mouse captures - blog

A captured Hastings River Mouse

Richard Harris & Hasting River Mouse - blog

Ranger Richard Harris looks very pleased with himself for capturing a Hastings River Mouse.



One Response to “Search for an endangered mouse – Part 3”
  1. Karen Harris says:

    Hi Doug,
    Good info and easy to read. Have sent it to my nieces and nephews so they can see what Uncle Richard does when he goes bush.


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