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More love for Mountain Pygmy-possums

Posted 20 April 2020

As Mountain Pygmy-possums prepare for their seven-month long hibernation we thought we’d fill you in on some of the work that has been undertaken for our furry little friends this summer. Further habitat protection has been undertaken with drainage and verge sealing along a section of the Great Alpine Road at Mount Little Higginbotham.

How does road sealing and new drainage protect Mountain Pygmy-possum habitat you might ask? The answer is, it helps reduce sediment getting into the boulder fields where the endangered species live. The boulder fields have gaps in them where the possums make their nests and if these gaps get full of sediment and gravel from the road then they will have fewer places to live. 

The project commenced in the 2018/19 summer with about 250 metres of drainage and verge sealing completed last year and an additional 350 metres as part of this summer’s work. The project is part of a services agreement under the Mountain Pygmy Possum Habitat Protection Program, with a funding commitment between the Mount Hotham Alpine Resort Management Board, North East Catchment Management Authority and Australian Government. There are various other components to the program and plans for habitat restoration work in the old quarry site on Mount Little Higginbotham just above the location of the most recent work.

This summer has also seen the first season of Mountain Pygmy-possum tracking on Little Higginbotham since the completion of the ‘Tunnel of Love’ here and the installation of microchip readers and monitoring cameras.

The first chip read for spring occurred on September 21 and from a week later, daily records of possums using the tunnel were logged right through until February.  A total of 28 different possums (45 have been chipped) from Little Higginbotham site are known to have used the tunnel, an amazing result. During March, only one record of a possum using the tunnel registered, which has our staff thinking the possums might begin their snooze earlier than they previously thought.

On the topic of wildlife monitoring, the Mount Hotham Alpine Resort Management Board also continues to use cameras to track larger animals, something it has been doing for the past six years.

Twenty remote sensing cameras are placed out on tracks and trails from November to May to monitor cat, deer, dingo and fox numbers in the resort and make decisions about control work. This year the data from this monitoring was also shared with Zali Jestrimski, a La Trobe University student and Dingo Sanctuary volunteer, who used the information to develop a research paper on dingoes in the Victorian Alpine Region.

The study aimed to report on dingo activity patterns and the spatial and temporal distributions of other fauna such as whether a species is using a certain area at a specific time. The results suggest that dingoes have a different temporal distribution in comparison to introduced species including foxes, cats and deer, with an activity peak at dawn and dusk. It was also found that there is spatial overlap of dingoes with foxes and deer and fewer cats in locations with dingoes.

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