Field Naturalist Survey

Searching for the Squirrel Glider

On the Queen’s Birthday weekend, this year, the Fauna Survey Group (FSG) of the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria (FNCV) visited the Grampians to survey for arboreal mammals, in particular the Squirrel Glider. The group carries out fauna surveys on private and public land in accordance with its Department of Environment and Primary Industries research permit.

Eleven members travelled west and camped at the Plantation Camping Ground, where they were hosted by Ryan Duffy and Dave Handscombe from Parks Victoria. By and large the weather was very kind to us. On Sunday we were joined by Margo Sietsma and some of her family for some

Seven survey areas were identified by Parks Victoria – the Dadswell’s Bridge, Golton, Silverband Falls and Heatherlie areas within the Grampians National Park (NP), Deep Lead and Lonsdale Nature Conservation Reserves (NCR) as well as the Ledcourt State Forest (SF). Within the survey areas 16 transects were identified. The surveys at Dadswell’s Bridge and Golton were not completed due to lack of time. There is scope to incorporate these sites in future visits to the park.

We employed spotlighting, remote cameras and hair tubes as our survey techniques. The deployment of cameras and hair-tubes and the spotlighting component of the survey were carried out from 5 to 8 June 2014, with the retrieval of equipment taking place 2 weeks later.

Seventeen cameras were deployed. Fifteen of the cameras were deployed in trees within each transect, at a height generally between three and four metres. All were baited with peanut butter, oats and golden syrup. The other two cameras were deployed at Heatherlie in banksia trees, focussing on the bait as well as the banksia florescences.

The 25 hair tubes were also baited with peanut butter, oats and golden syrup. Fourteen of them were placed in trees near the cameras. They were screwed to the branch with the opening facing downwards. The other eleven were pegged out on the ground.

Each transect was spotlit once.

The success of each survey method at each location is detailed in Table 1 on p 6.

In addition to the arboreal species , a number of bird species were recorded on camera as well as some Grey Kangaroos. The bird species included Australian Magpie, Eastern Rosella, Eastern Spinebill, Laughing Kookaburra, New Holland Honeyeater and White-winged Chough.

The link below gives you access to all the videos that recorded animals (and some that did not).

A relatively short and low-cost effort detected the presence of eight species of arboreal mammal over the five study areas. Two of the species (Brush-tailed Phascogale and Squirrel Glider) are listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (FFG) and all three species of Pygmy Possum occurring in Victoria are listed as near threatened on the Advisory List. Although the species of Pygmy Possum encountered during this study was not able to be identified, based on the Victorian distributions of all three species it is most likely to be an Eastern Pygmy Possum.

The Squirrel Glider record from the newly-acquired Heatherlie section of the Grampians NP is significant as according to the VBA this endangered species has not been recorded in the park since July 1984. The Grampians represent the most south-westerly population of this species in all of Australia. This population is isolated from other Squirrel Glider strongholds and requires careful management and monitoring.

Squirrel glider in nesting box ~ R Drury
Squirrel glider in nesting box ~ R Drury

The Brush-tailed Phascogale records are of significance because according to the VBA database, this species has not been previously recorded from Lonsdale NCR or the immediate Grampians NP area. This species has suffered a large range decline is south west Victoria.

Phascogale in nesting box ~ R Drury
Phascogale in nesting box ~ R Drury

Robin Drury
The Field Naturalists Club of Victoria