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Recently Deakin University, with assistance from Parks Vic and the Department of Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) have been carrying out extensive camera trapping and mammal trapping at sites in the eastern Otways.

The results have shown that the highest number of species were found in gully, coastal and sand dune sites, and this compared with lower than expected numbers in places such as Forest Road, Bald Hills and Pipeline Tracks.

The following animals were found in the sand dunes: Swamp Antechinus, Agile Antechinus, White-footed Dunnart, Southern Brown Bandicoot, Long-nosed Bandicoot, Swamp Rat, Bush Rat, Ringtail Possum, Cat and Fox. Other species found in the general trapping area were Echidna, Eastern Pygmy Possum, Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Black Wallaby and Black Rat.

Associate Prof. Barbara Wilson, from Deakin University, was involved with the project and provided the following status of two local species and the environmental changes which may have contributed to their decline.

Two high priority natural assets in the eastern Otway Ranges are two threatened species, the New Holland mouse, Pseudomys novaehollandiae (Vulnerable EPBC), and the Swamp Antechinus, Antechinus minimus (Vulnerable EPBC). Long-term studies were conducted on both of the species (1975–2006: Wilson et al).

swamp antechinusSwamp Antechinus

High-density populations of P. novaehollandiae occurred after above-average rainfall but declined precipitously during drought. Wildfire resulted in the extirpation of some populations. Although recorded at 10 sites it was last recorded in 2003.

Local extinctions of A. minimus occurred after the 1983 wildfire with recolonisation taking 20 years. Following a break in studies after 2006 the status of these species remained uncertain. Since 2013 new research supported by Parks Victoria and DEPI compared current distributions and populations to long-term data.

Live trapping and camera trapping surveys were conducted at 43 sites, 20 where A. minimus was previously recorded and nine where P. novaehollandiae was recorded. There were no captures of P. novaehollandiae and only eight individual A. minimus were recorded, at six sites (coastal dunes, long-unburnt heathy woodland). Further, capture rates of all mammals was very low in woodland. However, there was higher success in coastal dunes and gullies, indicating that such sites may represent significant mammal refuges.

Recovery of the endangered species is unlikely without intensive management, focused on remnant or reintroduced populations, including protection from habitat fragmentation and inappropriate fire regimes.

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos have been attacking the bark of the Ironbark Trees. Natalie was aware of the sound of cockatoos in the trees on her block at Fairhaven. When she investigated, she found them appearing to ring-bark the tree. Perhaps they were foraging for some wood dwelling larvae lodged within the bark.

black cockatooYellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

Whale sightings are still being reported along the coast. Point Impossible, Lorne, Skenes Creek, Apollo Bay and further along towards Warrnambool have all been visited. They have mostly been identified as Southern Right Whales.

Masked Lapwings are nesting at this time. Two chicks hatched at the roundabout at Coombes Road and Anglesea Road in early August.

Kaye Traynor