Friends of Chiltern Mt Pilot National Park

<h2;BRUSH-TAILED PHASCOGALES IN DECLINE Keith Cherry recently completed survey for Brush-tailed Phascogale in the Mt Pilot section of the park which failed to trap any animals. This year no phascogales were trapped which conforms to the general 10 year decline observed here and Reef Hills, Benalla.  Preliminary analysis of five sites monitored across the state indicate that the rainfall deficit was a principle cause in these two sites but not in those with different vegetation communities . The photo below was taken by Jerry Alexander

 Tuan or brushtail phascogale

These results support the general decline observed over the last ten years of monitoring. The same decline has been recorded from 11 years of monitoring in the Ironbark forests of Reef Hills, Benalla. Both these surveys are part of the state wide monitoring of the species . Preliminary analysis of monitoring results from five sites indicate the rainfall deficit was a principal cause at these two sites.

A second survey in March of some unburnt areas of Mt Pilot and Chiltern section of the park and, most particularly, remnant vegetation across the cleared land separating them also failed to trap any phascogales.

The impact of drought on ground vegetation is compounded by the heavy grazing of a large kangaroo population and intense predatory pressure from foxes operating in this very open vegetation strata. As most areas of the forest around Chiltern have few log or tree hollows for nests their population potential is low and the rate of replacing predated animals will also be low. This situation will prevail for many decades until the forest matures and supplies additional hollows.

A specific issue with the Chiltern section of the park is its isolation from the extensive forests of the Mt Pilot section including those of higher rainfall. Dispersing, young phascogales may migrate from these areas and supplement a declining population but only if remnant vegetation is continuous enough to provide a bridge not a barrier for movement. Although investigating remnants as bridges was an objective of the March survey, failure to find animals in either extensive forest or remnants means it was inconclusive. Some evidence for the use of connecting remnants can be derived from DNA analysis. If anyone finds a dead Brush-tailed Phascogale (eg. road or cat kill) could they please contact Eileen on 0357 261484 as soon as possible.

Keith Cherry.

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