Image: © Australian Wildlife Conservancy
The Animal Facts Editorial Team
July 19, 2023 9:44 pm
New South Wales, Australia
The Australian Wildlife Conservancy have reported finding the dusky hopping mouse more than 100km South of its previously recognized range. A ranger identified an individual during routine monitoring at Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary (on Barkandji country) in the Murray-Darling basin with further research finding a number of populations occurring across the sanctuary.
Dusky hopping mice had been presumed extinct in New South Wales until 2003 when a population was discovered at Sturt National Park in the north west corner of the state. Further populations were then identified around Broken Hill which was at the time the southern most extent of their range in the state.
With the discovery of a population at Soctia Wildlife Sanctuary their range has expanded by over 100km.
Daniel Burton, Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) Sanctuary Manager identified the first mouse while conducting pest control operations along the northern boundary of the sanctuary. He was drawn to the individual as it looked different to any he had seen during two years at the sanctuary.
“It sprinted right in front of me, and I hopped out of the car for a closer look,” Daniel explained. “The mouse was twice the size of a house mouse with larger ears, wider eyes, and a longer, black and bushy tail - and it wasn’t running, it was hopping.”
Using a mammal guide he created a short list of four potential species he thought it could be but further investigation was required. Using camera traps Daniel was able to gather hundreds of images which identified several colonies. Individuals from the science team then worked to trap an individual. One was then captured in July 2022 and AWC Field Ecologist Trevor Bauer made a field identification and collected tissue samples for genetic testing.
“We were able to use the information gathered from the camera trap images to opportunistically set up Elliott Traps and eventually capture one individual, a male which was nicknamed Patches,” Trevor said. “We took measurements of his head, tail, body, ears, feet and pads. He had a prominent throat pouch with fur pointing towards the centre. We had a good idea of the species, but took fur clippings and tissue samples for genetic testing to be certain.”
In September 2022 the samples were forwarded to the Australian Museum. It took eight months but by May 2023 they had confirmed the mystery mouse was the Dusky hopping mouse (Notomys fuscus).
Dr Rachel Ladd, AWC Wildlife Ecologist, said the Dusky Hopping Mouse was a welcome addition to Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary’s mammal inventory. She attributed the Dusky Hopping Mouse’s significant range expansion to fantastic conditions following consistent rainfall over the last three years.
“The Dusky Hopping Mouse’s range has contracted significantly since European colonisation and the introduction of predators such as cats and foxes,” Dr Ladd explained. “We are hoping that the reduced threat of predators inside the fenced area will be key to the species persisting at Scotia during drier years.”
Dusky hopping mice are considered threatened across Australia. They occur in New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland. A population formerly occurring in the Northern Territory is now considered extinct.
Chagi Weerasena, Australian Wildlife Conservancy Field Ecologist, releasing the Dusky Hopping Mouse Image: © Daniel Burton/ Australian Wildlife Conservancy
Image: © Daniel Burton/ Australian Wildlife Conservancy
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