Identifying predator species from their scats, footprints or prey remains can be problematic. We used three methods (DNA analysis, camera traps and scat analysis) to identify the predator of adult freshwater turtles and their nests. All three methods confirm that the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) was responsible. Application of these methods will inform effective conservation management strategies.
Volume 43 Number 8 2016
Because feral cats have been found to hunt extensively in intense fire scars in north-western Australia, we aimed to test the generality of this pattern by measuring cat habitat selection in far north-eastern Australia. Feral cats demonstrated strong selection for recent fire scars, open wetlands, yet avoided rainforests. This suggests that impacts of feral cats can be mitigated by managing fire regimes, and targeting control efforts to their preferred habitats. Photograph by Alex Hartshorne.
WR16109Winter durability of pygmy bluetongue lizard burrows is higher for occupied than for unoccupied burrows and for those in less-grazed neighbourhoods
Endangered pygmy bluetongue lizards spend most of their lives in spider burrows, and access to suitable burrows are therefore essential to the survival of the species. We found that intensive sheep grazing increases the deterioration of suitable lizard burrows. As almost all known pygmy bluetongue lizard habitats are used for live stock grazing, knowledge about the effect of grazing is essential to the future management of the species.
WR16127Less fuel for the fire: malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata) nesting activity affects fuel loads and fire behaviour
There is growing appreciation of the potential for fauna to affect fire regimes, but these interactions remain poorly understood. This study showed that nest building by malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata) reduced litter fuel loads and hence the likelihood and intensity of fires in the area around nests. Malleefowl nesting may contribute to more heterogeneous fire patterns, and therefore affect ecosystem function, in the fire-prone mallee system.
Hunters show heterogeneous preferences. A price reference for each one of the characteristics of driven hunts is estimated using a discrete choice experiment. Hunters exclusively hunting small game show clear preference patterns against the big hunting.
Prairie dogs can cause extensive damage in urban and suburban environments and management of their populations is controversial, requiring lethal and non-lethal methods. DiazaCon, a cholesterol synthesis inhibitor and contraceptive agent, was given to wild prairie dogs in a bait and reduced reproduction by 95.5%. DiazaCon may be a useful, non-lethal management tool in reducing prairie dog populations.
Understanding spatial drivers of coyote abundance in areas they recently colonized should help predict spatial variation in the effects of coyotes on food webs. Therefore, we conducted howl-response surveys and found that coyote abundance was positively related to grasslands and negatively associated with fragmentation. Our results highlight the importance of patch type and landscape juxtaposition on coyote abundance.
Understanding habitat use and selection by threatened ungulates is a crucial prerequisite for developing effective conservation strategies. We monitored vulnerable takins in the Qinling Mountains of China and found that they preferred mountainous forest at the landscape scale and needed more diverse forest habitats at the home-range scale. Many measures, such as maintaining a diversity of forest habitats, are recommended to conserve this ungulate species. Photograph by Zhi-Gao Zeng.
WR16114Novel grass–endophyte associations reduce the feeding behaviour of invasive European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus)
Small mammalian herbivores can have unwanted impacts on agriculture and attract birds of prey to airports, increasing bird strike. We developed and assessed grass–endophyte associations to determine their feeding-deterrent properties towards rabbits. In comparison to endophyte-free grasses, less herbage was consumed from endophyte-infected plots, inferring that endophytes have great potential for deterring problem wildlife at airports and other amenity areas. Photograph by Kev Drew.
WR16138The impact of sheep grazing on the depth of spider burrows and of burrows selected by the pygmy bluetongue lizard (Tiliqua adelaidensis)
The endangered pygmy bluetongue lizard occupies spider burrows in sheep-grazed grasslands. We investigated the impact of sheep grazing on burrow destruction and depth – grazing resulted in trampling of shallow burrows not used by lizards. Moderate sheep grazing may not impact on lizard burrow abundance or depth, but effects on burrowing spiders, vital to lizard persistence remain unknown. Photograph by J. Clayton.
The peer-reviewed and edited version of record published online before inclusion in an issue
WR16157The Bramble Cay melomys Melomys rubicola (Rodentia:Muridae): a first mammalian extinction caused by human-induced climate change?
The endangered Bramble Cay melomys is endemic to a low-lying sand cay threatened by ocean inundation. Surveys to confirm its conservation status failed to detect the species. The loss of the melomys probably represents the first mammalian extinction due to human-induced climate change and highlights the immediate need to mitigate predicted impacts of ocean inundation on other vulnerable species. Photograph by Ian Bell.
WR16134Fossils reveal late Holocene diversity and post-European decline of the terrestrial mammals of the Murray–Darling Depression
Fossils show that Australia’s mammal fauna could be in even worse shape than previously thought. Mammal remains from an owl roost pre-dating European arrival in Australia’s Murray Mallee fill a gap in modern and historical records to reveal that the impacts of European colonisation on the region’s fauna have been underestimated. Young fossils provide unique information about recent extinctions and the need for increased conservation efforts. Cranium of extinct rodent Pseudomys auritus from Mypolonga. Scale bar = 1 cm. Photograph by D. A. Fusco.
Understanding roadkill patterns and their main drivers is crucial to improving safe co-existence between humans and animals. We aimed to assess the influence of land cover in road killings and evaluate the benefits of mitigating hotspot sections only. Casualties occurred mainly in areas with more abundant and diverse communities, supporting that mitigation should target sections crossing areas of higher habitat quality and connectivity. Photo credit: Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative, IPÊ.
WR16178Falling apart? Insights and lessons from three recent studies documenting rapid and severe decline in terrestrial mammal assemblages of northern, south-eastern and south-western Australia
Australia’s mammal species have suffered high and ongoing rates of decline and extinction. We report here on three studies from widely separated sites, mostly in conservation reserves, that show continuing marked decline in many mammal species. Although there are some notable differences in the results, there is also some consistency across the studies in the types of mammal species that are declining the most and in the likely causes of decline. Photograph by Marika Maxwell, Department of Parks and Wildlife.
Roads are a leading cause of habitat fragmentation and population decline of wildlife. We tested the effectiveness of road mortality mitigation for a threatened rattlesnake and found that a combination of fencing to exclude snakes from the road and ecopassages to allow safe migration between habitats worked well provided that the infrastructure was continuously monitored and maintained. Photograph by Jacqueline D. Litzgus.
WR16143The effect of on-shore light pollution on sea-turtle hatchlings commencing their off-shore swim
The present study examines whether sea turtle hatchlings that have entered the sea can be attracted ashore again by shore-based light pollution, subsequently decreasing sea turtle recruitment. Sea turtle hatchlings were released to the sea and some returned to shore at an adjacent lightly polluted beach. Shore-based light pollution adjacent to sea turtle nesting beaches is a problem because it distracts sea turtle hatchlings while on shore and in the sea on moonless nights. Photograph by N. Holmes.
The impacts of changing environments are becoming more evident in animal behaviour bringing awareness to the flexibility of critical ecosystems. Predator–prey interactions reflect ecological processes that shape ecosystems and may serve as an indicator of future environmental changes. The results from this study suggest that predator- prey relationships fluctuate with changing environmental conditions; however savanna systems are currently resilient enough to recover after severe environmental disruptions.
Live trapping studies can require access to captured individuals soon after capture to remove or sample animals. We have trialled an automated sensor system that sends a signal to a receiving device when a small mammal is trapped. In enclosure and field conditions, 100% and 98.7% of sensors recorded captured animals correctly, suggesting that the system is useful for optimising live trapping of small mammals.
Unused forest roads may not contribute directly to salamander road mortality but they contribute to poor habitat quality. Using coarse woody debris (CWD), we attempted to rehabilitate an unused forest road in Algonquin Provincial Park and found that salamanders preferred cover greater than 1 m2 and may even gather in numbers under artificial cover. The use of CWD may be an effective and low cost way to mitigate some of the negative impacts of forest roads. Photograph by David L. LeGros.
Pied imperial-pigeons, a shy and wary species of long-standing conservation concern, demonstrated a sudden change in behaviour when they formed a novel breeding colony in a busy urban area. We recorded a progressive decline in nest survival over three breeding seasons and found predation and anthropogenic hazards to be important causes of nest failure. Our findings highlight the need to protect the traditional breeding sites of this species in Queensland, Australia, located on certain remote small islands where relevant predators and anthropogenic hazards are rare. Photograph by Julia Hazel.
The animal welfare implications of applying helicopter shooting to feral horses are contentious. Observation of feral horse helicopter shooting operations in central Australia allowed animal welfare outcomes to be quantified and the influence of explanatory variables to be examined. Welfare outcomes from helicopter shooting of feral horses were comparable with other species that have been studied and could be improved through management of shooters.
WR16086Biodiversity assessment: selecting sampling techniques to access anuran diversity in grassland ecosystems
Sampling techniques are often suitable to certain environment and particular species, which can result in frequent sampling biases. We present a comparison among commonly used acoustic surveys i.e. visual encounter of adults (ASVE), automated digital recorders (ADR), and tadpole sampling (DSL) techniques to estimate amphibian species richness. ADR and DSL were the most efficient techniques, mainly in terms of species detection. We highlighted that ADR includes species whose males call during short periods, and DSL exclusively detects ‘explosive breeders’, making ASVE unnecessary.
WR16156Temporal variations in activity patterns during rut – implications for survey techniques of red deer, Cervus elaphus
Intraspecific differences in behaviour can affect censuses and bias estimates. By analysing a long-term dataset collected during 17 red deer ruts, we found that temporal variations in activity patterns among different age and sex categories can lead to divergent results in different survey methods. Both the timing and choice of census methods are fundamental and need to be linked to behavioural variations.
WR16152Changes in abundance and reproductive activity of small arid-zone murid rodents on an active cattle station in central Australia
Sand dunes of central Australia are inhabited by three old endemic native rodents together with house mice. Does the periodic presence of house mice during boom times negatively affect the native rodents? Our study suggests that sandy inland mouse, but not spinifex hopping mouse, populations are adversely affected. Consequently, the presence of house mice may be of conservation concern to small quadrupedal native rodents where they co-occur. Photo of a Sandy Inland Mouse taken by Peter Canty.
Koalas are virtually invisible in forests because they are solitary animals in large home ranges containing thousands of trees. Radiotracking studies at Eden showed that lack of sightings should not necessarily cause concern. However, sightings are rapidly increasing in an area of declining forest where further tracking would improve our understanding of historic irruptions and declines throughout the koala’s range.
These articles have been peer reviewed and accepted for publication. They are still in production and have not been edited, so may differ from the final published form.
Habitat characteristics and resource use of a threatened arboreal marsupial in a degraded landscape: the brush-tailed phascogale (Phascogale tapoatafa tapoatafa) in central Victoria, Australia
Rabbit haemorrhagic disease: Macquarie Island rabbit eradication adds to knowledge on both pest control and epidemiology
Estimating tadpole detection rates by visual field surveys: effects of survey time, tadpole species, and tadpole density.
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