Indigenous fauna recorded within the Resort includes 27 mammal, 63 bird, 14 reptile, five frog and one fish taxon. Recorded mammals include the Mountain Pigmy Possum (see MPP tab), Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Black Wallaby, Platypus, Short Beak Echidna, Common Wombat, Common Ringtail and Brushtail Possum, Broad-tooth Rat and Bush Rat and a variety of small bats. Birds include the Wedge tail Eagle, Magpie, Kookaburra, Hawk Owl, Crimson Rosella, Flame Robin and a variety of honeyeaters. Mountain Galaxias is the single native fish found in streams within the resort.
Distribution throughout the Resort is largely related to habitat requirements. Habitat preferences are related to the vegetation, either directly, through the food, shelter or breeding sites it provides, or indirectly, through factors such as topography, soil type and temperature.
A study of invertebrates conducted by Rosengren at al. (1993) in Orchard ski field area listed 25 orders of invertebrates, 28 families representing 49 genera and 85 species were found. Coleoptera was the most diverse order, with at least 13 families and 41 species. Orthoptera were the next diverse in terms of species, with 17 species found, represented by four families. Fifteen species of Hymenoptera were found and 12 species of Lepidoptera.
The most well known invertebrate taxa within the Resort are the Bogong Moth (Agrotis infusa). The Bogong Moth migrates to the Victorian Alps and Snowy Mountains in spring from the inland plains of eastern Australia, to aestivate in rock crevices and periglacial block streams. It forms an important part of the Mountain Pygmy-possums (Burramys parvus) diet and is heavily exploited, especially by females during the breeding season.
Posing the most significant threat to biodiversity within the Resort are the Rabbit, Hare, Fox and Cat. The Rabbit and Hare are introduced herbivores that threaten indigenous vegetation and the Fox and Cat are introduced carnivorous predators that threaten native wildlife. Predation by Foxes and Cats on native wildlife is listed as a threatening process under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. The introduced Brown Trout threatens Mountain Galaxias populations in the upper Swindler’s Creek. Brown Trout has been recorded from the Swindler’s Creek downstream of the reservoir and weir. These barriers appear to be protecting the Mountain Galaxias from the upstream migration of the Brown Trout.
In April 2012 the Board began implimentation of an integrated pest management program to compliment 1080 baiting in conjunction with Parks Victoria. Monitoring of populations is conducted inhouse and supplimented with work by external contractors. MHRMB would like to acknowledge Alex Krstic of Wildpro for his assistance in the development of this program.
Six rare or threatened indigenous fauna species have been recorded within the Mount Hotham Alpine Resort. These include the Mountain Pygmy Possum, Broad-toothed Rat, Alpine Bog Skink and Alpine Tree Frog. The Resort is committed to ensuring appropriate measures are implemented and maintained as outlined in action statements, conservation management plans and guidelines for rare or threatened species.
Mountain Pigmy Possum
The Mountain pygmy possum was believed extinct until it was discovered within the University Ski Club at Mount Hotham in 1966. The endangered Mountain Pygmy possum (Burramys parvus) is the only mammal restricted to the alpine and sub-alpine areas of mainland Australia. Currently, three genetically distinct regional populations are recognised from the Mount Kosciuszko area, the Mount Bogong to Mount Higginbotham area, and Mount Buller. Substantial colonies occur within the Mount Hotham Alpine Resort, in particular at Mount Higginbotham and Mount Little Higginbotham where their main habitat is basalt boulderfield and associated heath vegetation above 1400 metres elevation (Heinz, Broome & Mansergh, 2004). An Environmental Significance Overlay for the Resort, covering Mountain Pygmy-possum habitat has been incorporated into the Alpine Resorts Planning Scheme. This is designed to preserve and enhance habitat, prevent destruction and fragmentation of existing habitat, provide movement corridors and ensure development does not have an adverse impact upon Mountain Pygmy Possum habitat.
The Mountain Pygmy Possum weighs approximately 45 grams and has a mouse like body covered in grey fur and a long tail. Mountain Pygmy Possums can have a life span of approximately 11-12 years for females and five years for males. Their diet consists mainly of Bogong Moths, seed and berries especially of Podocarpus laurencei . Breeding season generally begins co-incident with spring thaw and the arrival of Bogong Moths, the Pygmy Possums store seeds and nuts in its food cache to be accessed during hibernation. As one of the worlds only hibernating marsupials, they lower their metabolic rate by 98% for several days before waking to dine on food stores. Usually a female will produce a single litter of four young annually. While more young can be born females have four nipples and can only raise four pouch young. Young last four to five weeks within the pouch when they are left in a nest to suckle until fully developed and independent to leave the nest at nine to 10 weeks (Heinz, Broome & Mansergh, 2004).
Major threats to Pygmy Possums within the resort come from the presence of dogs and feral cats, impacts on habitat from sedimentation runoff into boulderfields, particularly those below the Great Alpine Road and more generally from impacts of climate change. Tunnels under the Great Alpine Road and Higgi Drive at Mount Higgibotham have been constructed to reduce habitat fragmentation and provide a safe corridor within the resort.
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