FOREST DWELLER: One of our rarest small mammals, the Hastings River mouse.
FOREST DWELLER: One of our rarest small mammals, the Hastings River mouse. contributed

Surveys on lookout for small mammals

THE jury is out about whether science is sexy, but it sure can be cute.

North Coast Local Land Services is working with a range of partners - community groups, landholders and the local Aboriginal community - to manage the grassy forests which are critical habitat for the Hastings River mouse and other endangered species such as the eastern bristlebird.

The Hastings River mouse is one of Australia's rarest small mammals and most of its last remaining populations occur in the biodiversity corridor that straddles the Border Ranges between northern NSW and south-east Queensland.

Senior land services officer John Nagle recently took part in small mammal field surveys co-ordinated by Kevin Taylor from the Nature Conservation Council of NSW to find small mammals at sites at Grady's Creek, near Cougal.

"It was a fantastic experience being able to see a wide range of small ground mammals up close and get to know their individual features and behaviour," Mr Nagle said.

"You just don't think about these animal populations when walking through the bush in daylight hours, when at night and early mornings the forest floor is ruled by their specialised foraging and breeding behaviours."

The recent survey was the third at the site and the second since 2013 when a 120-hectare prescribed burn was carried out. Seven small mammal species, one skink, one introduced rodent and cane toads were recorded in Elliott traps. That cane toads appear to be expanding their range and numbers in the area is clearly of concern.

Removal of environmental weeds such as lantana and Crofton weed and the reintroduction of fire to promote the grassy understorey habitat critical for many species is the key to management, along with control of cats and foxes.

North Coast Local Land Services is working with project partners to implement monitoring of fauna and vegetation in key management areas. Team leader monitoring and evaluation Phil Pisanu said: "Monitoring can provide a yardstick for measuring the outcomes of management actions."

The project is being delivered by North Coast Local Land Services with funding from the National Landcare Programme and Catchment Action NSW.

"There is an opportunity for North Coast Local Land Services to build on past efforts to understand the benefits of the conservation work being undertaken in the corridor, and collect new information to be used for refining the management approach," Mr Nagle said.



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