April will see a survey in the McKenzie river by the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority. Among others they hope to find the two baby platypuses first recorded last April, the first time in a decade that juveniles had been detected. The survey will also provide valuable information about the impact of environmental water releases in the river.
The researchers will also be trialling a new technique called eDNA which tries to pick up traces of DNA in the water (from hairs, faeces etc) . This can indicate the presence of platypus without actually trapping them or even seeing them. At this stage it can’t pick out individuals, or how recent the activity is, but it can be a basis for where it is worth taking a closer look.
The Grampians is highly significant as it is the single inland population of Long Nosed Potoroo in Victoria1. Until 2003 there was thought to be only a single population on private property at Pomonal1 with oral history existing of Potoroo visiting peoples veranda’s along at Waterhole Road. This population was found by John Seebeck during a Christmas field trip in 1970 by members of the Mammal Survey Group of the Field Naturalists Club of the Victoria2.
Yet, in the space of only 8 years , 5 new colonies were found.
The first, in the head waters of the Glenelg River (north of Syphon Road). The second (and only two weeks later), Wimmera Reserves Ranger-in-Charge John Harris picked up a road kill on Grampians Road in the button grass heath of the Wannon Divide. In summer 2009, the first ever widespread use of remote digital camera was deployed across the Grampians extending the range of the Glenelg River Potoroo population from the Big Cord – Syphon Road crossing to just south of Strachan’s huts3. The third population was discovered in spring 2009 with three sites along the Wannon River, south of Yarram Gap Road.
In 2011, the fourth population was accidentally found using remote digital cameras following a Bandicoot tip-off on private land in the Victoria Valley (southern Grampians). The fifth population was found near the brush-tailed rock-wallaby release site and likely a transient animal emerging from the button-grass heath surrounding Moora Moora reservoir. A common theme is all Grampians populations have been found in long unburnt heath dominated by wet, sedgy, button grass heathlands.
However, the 2006 Grampians bushfire burnt the Glenelg and Great Divide populations. The 2013 Vic Valley Complex fire burnt the Victoria Valley population. And although never surveyed, a population likely lived in the button grass heathlands of the Wartook basin that were catastrophically burnt in 2014.
This leaves only a small unburnt section of the Glenelg, the Wannon and Moora Moora reservoir populations. The Ming Ming swamp would be a likely undiscovered population and wet gullies of the lower slopes of the southern Victoria range.
It is safe to say the spring-fed, button grass, heathlands on the sandy outwash slopes of the Grampians ranges would have had interconnected populations. The major river systems of Mt William, Wannon, Fyans, Glenelg, McKenzie would have connected to the vast swamp systems to the south (Heifer etc), east (Fyans and Lonsdale) and west (Rocklands). Not just Potoroo but other species such as quoll and bandicoot would have been abundant.
The brilliant wetland restoration work that is happening throughout Halls Gap could provide an opportunity to secure local Grampians potoroo genetics by establishing an additional potoroo population back through the Fyans valley as a community wildlife restoration project. The reintroduction could be supported by an army of local resident fox and cat assassins.
1 Claridge, A., Seebeck, J., and Rose, R. 2007. Bettongs, Potoroos and the Musky Rat-Kangaroo. CSIRO Publishing. Pg. 154.
2 Seebeck, J.H. 1976. Mammals in the Pomonal area, The Grampians. Victorian Naturalist, 93(4). pp138-147.
2 Stevens, M., Rudolf, G., Christian, F., and Frey, S. (2010). Pilot survey for long-nosed potoroo and southern brown bandicoot using remote camera in the Grampians National Park, February to April 2009. Field Report 3.
The Moora Creek colony population has been stable for almost a year (touch wood), the last mortality was in April last year. The population is currently 7 animals. Images are retrieved weekly from a series of remote cameras that have been deployed through the release site. Image attached, female 82 who is our longest surviving wallaby (close to 8 years old!). Individual wallabies can be identified from the colour or pattern of their radio-tracking collar antennae and ear-tag.
Further remote camera images have been obtained of a spotted-tail quoll. The quoll has now been detected on four separate occasions, all at the Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby colony location. Parks Victoria is attempting to gain a hair-follicle sample from the quoll in order to determine where it has come from. To achieve this rangers have established cage-traps adjacent to the rock-wallaby colony and will trap periodically, will establish hair-tubes within the rock-wallaby colony at locations where the quoll has been detected, and will work with the Otway Dog Conservation program (http://www.conservationecologycentre.org/our-work/conservation-dogs/) to see if their specially trained dogs can sniff out a quoll scat.
Grampians Ark fox monitoring
Ranger Ben Holmes has been busy setting up close to 160 remote camera locations within the Victoria Valley and upper Wannon River area in order gain a precise understanding of the Grampians fox populations. This project is a research partnership between Parks Victoria and the Arthur Rhyler Institute for Environmental Research. While reviewing images from the cameras Ben has observed a myriad of animals, including a Koala (image attached), southern brown bandicoots and even more exciting, a Long-nosed Potoroo. In the last 10 years potoroos are only known from 2 locations within the Grampians, both of which are long-unburnt. This recent find is exciting because the potoroo was detected in a new location that is within the Mt Lubra fire-scar, just east of Moora Moora Reservoir.
Much of our meeting was of course fire related as we came to terms with the intensity of the fire and the damage done. But we first had a few items of business arising from the December meeting.
1. Recruitment process for Advisory Group:advertisements will go in local papers very soon, calling for expressions of interest. Procedures for forming a Traditional Owner Reference Group are nearing completion.
2. Camping:Asbestos at Staplyton campground is being cleaned up this week. Staplyton will be included in the Online booking system being rolled out. However Staplyton campground doesn’t easily align with the Grampians Peak Trail. A second campground in the Northern part of the Park would be desirable. Coppermine could be changed from an informal campground into a formal one or a private sector could run a campground on the edge of the Park whether it is roofed accommodation or just basic camping. There is some interest in this but the Northern Grampians Shire would need to rezone the farm land.
Strachan’s will be opened next week.
We then turned our attention to the fire.
Dave had taken those available (not me) on a drive through the fire affected areas, the rest of us had looked at what we could see from the opened roads. In many areas the fire was extremely hot.
Discussion on the 3 cottages at Zumsteins. The central one is in a reasonable state but the other two are badly damaged. Our suggestion was to fix the one and protect the others from further deterioration, but this will depend on Heritage Victoria’s recommendations.
Action: Dave to seek advice from Heritage Victoria ASAP before the winter regarding protecting the cottages from damage.
Fish Falls will be open before Easter.
MacKenzie Falls will stay closed until after Easter. MacKenzie Falls precinct is badly damaged – the Lookout needs to be re boarded. The house is gone and may be difficult to replace with the bushfire overlay. Should the kiosk be replaced? Winfield’s still have a 3 year lease. Discussions with them are continuing.
Investigating using solar and hydro for energy which would mean being able to get rid of the 5km power line from MacKenzie Falls to Zumsteins
Funding is not as good as we would like it. $250,000.00 has been allocated for the clean-up.
Insurance will cover replacements
Summer Day Valley walk can be realigned. There is $80,000.00 for Summer Day Valley and Hollow Mountain clean up.
Tree risk is not covered by insurance.
Heatherlie Quarry has had some assets burnt.
Golton Gorge will move to the back of the list. (it was due for an upgrade).
Roses Gap has houses burnt and the Education Centre lost 6 cottages.
Cooinda Borrong Scout Camp didn’t burn. However the Exclusion plots were burnt. The yearly lease needs to be tightened up to stop unsuitable user groups using the camp.
Most roads will be opened at the end of the week. But we will keep some roads closed as the landscape needs to rest before people are allowed in.
Environmental and Cultural Heritage Recovery:
Ryan showed a map with the dozer lines in the fire affected area.
Cultural team, Traditional Owners and AAV are looking for new cultural sites and scar trees in the dozer lines before they are rehabilitated.
Sallow Wattle had been mapped before the fire and will be a major problem after the fire.
A researcher from Melbourne Uni is looking into a gall wasp to destroy Sallow Wattle.
Parks are looking for grant money for Sallow Wattle work on Park boundaries. There’s a need for both short term and long term strategies for Sallow Wattle.
Deakin Uni Students are doing research into small mammals in the fire affected area. Small mammal trapping 36 sites in the Grampians National Park. 4 sites were burnt in Mt Lubra and The Northern Grampians Complex fire.
The Borea mirabilis reintroduction site near Plantation Campground was burnt and is being closely monitored. (This extremely rare plant is known from only one natural site near Halls Gap)
BTR Wallabies are still okay, no mortality since April last year.
There are now 3 photos of the Quoll in the Brush Tailed Rock Wallaby site. The team tried to trap the quoll for 7 days but had no luck.
Hair tubing is also being tried in the BTRW site, no cage traps can be used.
Local landowners talking about quoll sightings
There are now quite a few remote cameras in the Wannon Fan and Victoria Valley with interesting results, including an image of a potoroo in the Mt Lubra fire scare. Species are in the fox baited area of the park
Daryl is using soft jaw traps and changing his bait in the hope of catching cats as well..
Stone cairns being erected by walkers at the Balconies are not actually injuring lizards or beetles, but should be discouraged.
Katherine’s money will run out at the end of the year, and Dave and Ryan are looking for ways to fund her position. PV funds her 3 days a week and CVA does 2 days a week. Katherine has made important relationships with schools etc. and it is important not to lose her.
PlatypusSPOT is an online group wanting to involve more people in reporting platypus sightings. They invite community environmental groups including Friends groups to contribute to their new website. The website will use citizen science to improve our understanding of platypus distribution and occurrence, while at the same time raising awareness of some of the conservation issues facing platypuses. If we want to improve management and conservation outcomes for the platypus we need to know more about their distribution. If you’ve been lucky enough to see a platypus, jump onto the new website (www.platypusSPOT.org) and let them know.
This website allows you to submit your sightings, upload a photo, viewsightings in your local area, learn about platypuses, and interact with other ‘platypusSPOTters’.
Human activities pose the biggest threat to the long-term health and survival of platypus populations, but with goodmanagement, conservation efforts and community engagement it’s possible for platypuses to thrive in both rural and urban environments.
You may have heard or read about the exciting news that there is photo confirmation of at least one live quoll in the Grampians national park. One of the remote cameras set up near the Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby release site has captured a clear image.
Among the many questions is: is this a lone male come from a known population to the south (eg Mt Eccles) in search of a female, or is it part of a local group? The former seems possible, but unlikely, as it is over 100km. The possibility of a local group is great news, and there’ll be more camera work of course. By the way, they did check whether the local zoo had had any escapes.
It is also good to have it confirmed that the fox baiting programme does not affect quolls.
So many congratulations and thanks to the skills of Daryl Panther who sets up the cameras, and to the thoroughness of Ryan Duffy, Ben Holmes and all the local team in recognising they had something very unusual on their screens.
Official wildlife database records are poor when attempting to understand the historic habitat ranges of many wildlife species. This creates difficulties when investigating the potential for large-scale fauna restoration opportunities across landscapes such as the Grampians. Common questions arise; What species used to occur in the landscape? How abundant were they? What was there habitat preference? Why did they go extinct?
My search started when comparing the data of previous small mammal captures by Seebeck1 in the 1970’s, or Cockburn2 in the 1980’s with recent small mammal trapping in the Grampians3. It is clear that species such as Long Nosed Potoroo, Southern Brown Bandicoot and Smokey Mouse have declined. This is in addition to the species already locally extinct such as White Footed Rabbit Rat, Southern Bettong, Western Barred Bandicoot and New Holland Mouse found by Wakefield4 in the 1960’s in Grampians cave deposits and the loss of poorly documented species such as Quoll5,6 and Dingo7.
However, nothing will replace local knowledge that can only be achieved through time spent working, living, exploring, studying and listening to a landscape. In Eric Barber, the Grampians has a custodian of local knowledge only earned through a long family connection with stories passed from his father, uncle and grandfather combined with a library of references only collected through a passionate career in natural history.
Eric’s oral history and advice has pointed me in the right direction to help paint the picture on Quoll in the Grampians landscape.
Eric accounts that many species that are rare or extinct today were common back in the 1800’s and 1900’s and were not noteworthy to write or document about being considered abundant and vermin. This makes establishing historic habitat ranges difficult when catastrophic disease possibly contributed to exterminating quolls on the mainland between 1901-19038,9. To this point, the presence of both species of Quoll in the Grampians (Eastern and Tiger) has provided many years of conjecture to agree if the species were actually present or not as official documentation is poor.
Eric explains that Quoll were once widespread. Supporting this valuable local oral history is research about to be published by David Peacock and Ian Abbot that has unearthed over 40,000 quoll records hidden in grey literature and family diaries from across Australia. This work includes local Grampians accounts such as; 1872 Mr Macpherson of Vermont noted that his father killed a large Tiger Quoll at the head of the Glenelg River (in the now Grampians National Park); 1875 – a Tiger Quoll was killed at Billgana in the Ararat district in the act of ‘devouring a good sized chicken’; 1882 – The Ararat Advertiser account for Eastern Quolls being trapped and killed during the lambing season in the Mount William district; 1885 – Eastern Quolls were also ‘very abundant’ in western Victoria with an author touring the region frequently seeing their ‘white-spotted carcasses lying about stations where they had been killed in traps’; 1898 – a toddler was scratched on the leg by an Eastern Quoll whilst in the Grampians (all accounts from Peacock and Abbot, unpublished data).
The evidence is now clear for the Grampians and surrounding area. A Tiger Quoll skull was recently found in a cave in the Victoria Range in March 2012. Eric provided me with the memoirs of Mrs M. Bodey5 from circa 1900 who writes from Walmer along the Wimmera River of native cats in their hundreds, unearthing and eating corpses in graves and attacking people in beds!
Over the past few hundred years land clearing has isolated the Grampians, fire regimes have been altered and the introduction of fox and cat combined with sport hunting of species such as Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby10,11 have changed the presence of native mammals we now have. However, imagine if we could play a role in large-scale restoration of our unique wildlife similar to ambitious attempts and plans in the UK or the USA?
I continue to research the missing wildlife the Grampians and am particularly interested in Dingo. Any information, family diaries or oral history accounts of Dingo (or Quoll) would be gratefully received. Please contact if you would like to provide any information.
Thank you to Eric and Evie Barber for kindly passing on information, obscure references and pointing me in the right direction. Thank you to David Peacock and Ian Abbot for use of Grampians quoll records prior to formal publication of their quoll database.
1 Seebeck, J.H. (1976). Mammals in the Pomonal area, Grampians. Victorian Naturalist 93. 138-147.
2 Cockburn, A. (1981). Population regulation and dispersion of the smoky mouse, Pseudomys fumeus II. Spring decline, breeding success and habitat heterogeneity. Australian Journal of Ecology6, 255-266.
3 De Bondi, N., White, J.G., Stevens, M., and Cooke, R. (2010). A comparison of the effectiveness of camera trapping and live trapping for sampling terrestrial small-mammal communities. Wildlife Research37, 456-465.
4 Wakefield, N. A. (1963). Mammal remains from the Grampians, Victoria. Victorian Naturalist 80, 130-133.
5 Bodey, M. (c.1900). ‘The early Wimmera’. Personal memoir. Personal communication.
6 Wakefield, N.A. (1974). Mammals of Western Victoria. In Douglas and O’Brien (Eds.), The Natural History of Western Victoria, pp. 35-51.
7 Carter, S. (1911). ‘Reminiscences of the early days of the Wimmera’. (Norman Brothers Printers: Melbourne.)
8 McQueen R. 1960. Native Cats on Wilson’s Promontory. Victorian Naturalist, 77, pp 206-207.
9 Paddle, R. 2002. The Last Tasmanian Tiger: The History and Extinction of the Thylacine. Published in Australia by Cambridge University Press
10 Fountain, P., and Ward, T. (1907). ‘Rambles of an Australian naturalist’. (John Murray, London.)
11 Lobert, B. (1988). The Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby (Petrogale penicillata) in the Grampians National Park and Black Range, Victoria. Part 1 – Survey. Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research Technical Report Series No. 64. Department of Sustainability and Environment, Heidelberg, Victoria.
Research Projects: There is an impressive list of projects being undertaken at the moment: birds, aquatic creatures, small mammals, importance of unburnt patches, Chytrid fungus survey of frogs, cinnamon fungus research, impact of sallow wattle infestations. To take just one of the research projects that has been borne out of the 2012 Grampians Bioscan, demonstrating the direct management benefits of our Museum Victoria and Parks Victoria partnership/relationship. It will assist us to understand the re-colonisation of Smoky Mice after a significant disturbance event such as the February 2013 Fire Complex. The research provides us with a unique opportunity to learn and adapt our fire regimesand predator control program to help protect this species. The project is funded by Museum Victoria with in-kind and material support from the Grampians Ark program. There’s some great pictures and further information on:
Brushtail Rock Wallaby updateAutumn health check trapping was suspended as we suspected one of the female wallabies had 'young at foot', which is good news. The female in question is the longest persisting wallaby at the site, hopefully she can pass on behaviours she has learnt at Moora Creek onto her offspring. - We are currently using a new fox control trap close to Halls Gap in order to determine if it will be useful to deploy within the Rock-wallaby site. The trap is called a 'collarum' and is a non-lethal neck-hold trap. This trap has several advantages in that it is target specific (should only be triggered by a fox); does not need a toxin (like 1080); and as it captures and holds a fox we would be able to confirm we have removed a fox from the wallaby colony. We have special permission to use these traps from DEPI and are the first to seek permission to use them in Victoria.
The Natural Values team are busy looking at the impact of the fire, so we don’t have an article from Ryan. What we do know is that the remote camera work continues to be very useful. It is revealing that cats are an increasing threat to the small critters, and staff and experts are looking the best ways to deal with this. Cinnamon fungus is another problem that has returned after the 2 wet years.
The results of the Museum of Victoria Bioscan are coming through a little at a time. There are two excellent videos up on Youtube and more to come. The first was a general report, the second focussed on moths of the Grampians: www.youtube.com/user/museumvictoria
In other news, the student studying the diet of deer has just completed her PhD, and we are hoping we can have her talk about her results at a meeting later in the year.
Threatened Species Interest Group
As outlined in previous Newsletters, FOGGs received a grant to pay for a person to co-ordinate the monitoring and search activities in the Grampians, Stawell region. These activities have been co-ordinated by Parks and DSE staff in the past, but with all the funding cuts over recent years this role has not been covered. Gail Pollard is now doing this role and is working on the calendar of activities for the year. She will be sending an email for people to register their interest, via the FOGGs and the old Threatened Species Group email lists. If you are not on either of these lists please email her on or contact Wendy Bedggood on 0429932065. Gail works shift work as a nurse and has clunky internet service where she lives (her communication resources are not on par with DSE and Parks), so it is important people register their interest to make it easier for her to contact them. Please put ‘Threatened Species Interest’ in the subject so she knows its not spam mail.