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Controlling feral animals vital for tiny possum’s recovery

Controlling populations of feral cats and foxes in the Victorian Alps is vital for the survival and recovery of the endangered Mountain Pygmy-possum (Burramys parvus).

 

These tiny animals, the only marsupial known to hibernate over winter in Australia, are only found above 1,400 metres altitude among the boulders of Victoria’s highest peaks. By using baits, traps and shooting to control cat and fox populations, the five-year Mountain Pygmy-possum Recovery in the Victorian Alps project is reducing predation of the possum population on 14,000 hectares around its mountain homes.

A further 3,000 hectares, mainly around the Mt Hotham alpine resort, received similar measures immediately after the 2020 bushfires as part of the recently implemented Emergency Pest Mitigation and Habitat Protection project.

In addition to control works, scientists are monitoring feral numbers using camera traps, and dietary behaviours by analysing the stomach contents of captured animals.

The project has also funded engineering works at Hotham Heights to provide permanent protection for three hectares of the possum’s critical boulder habitat affected by road run-off. These works protect the possum’s habitat from erosion and sedimentation by sealing the road verge and improved drainage along the Great Alpine Road.

The project is also contributing to long-term monitoring of the species by supporting wildlife biologists to monitor Mountain Pygmy-possum populations every summer in key locations.

This long-term monitoring data includes dietary analysis of the possums to better understand their feeding behaviour, particularly with the Bogong Moth. This information will help to improve understanding on how the possums may cope in drought years when Bogong Moth numbers are low, such as occurred in the summer of 2018-2019. The North East CMA is coordinating the Mountain Pygmy-possum Recovery in the Victorian Alps project in partnership with Parks Victoria, Mount Hotham Alpine Resort Management Board, and Falls Creek Alpine Resort Management Board. The project is supported through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

Dean Heinze photo courtesy of Ecology Links Pty Ltd.

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