One of Victoria’s rarest rodents found at Wilsons Promontory
For the first time in more than five years, ecologists have found a rare New Holland mouse at Wilsons Promontory. The rodent was once found in populations dotted across Victoria, including in parts of metropolitan Melbourne as recently as the 1970s. In the past 15 years, it has only been recorded in three areas: the Gippsland Lakes, Wilsons Promontory and Providence Ponds, between Maffra and Bairnsdale.
The New Holland mouse is listed as vulnerable in Victoria and federally and endangered in Tasmania. In 1994, the New Holland mouse was found at 25 sites at Wilsons Promontory. However regular surveys since have failed to find the native rodent, which was last documented in early 2010.
(image:Original source: Flickr: New Holland Mouse
Author: Doug Beckers )
Ecologist Phoebe Burns from Museum Victoria and Melbourne University caught the 42-gram adult male in a trap, enticed by peanut butter.
The species also occurs in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.
The New Holland Mouse is similar in appearance to the introduced and relatively common House Mouse (Mus musculus), but can be distinguished by its relatively large eyes and lack of a ‘mousey’ odour. The species appears to have undergone a major decline since European settlement. Historical and ongoing threats to the species include loss of habitat and predation from introduced predators, ie “human activities”! Habitat for the New Holland Mouse includes coastal open heathlands, open woodlands with a heathland understorey, and vegetated sand dunes.
The tail is longer than the head-body length and is dusky brown on top, whitish below and darker at the tip. Broadly similar in appearance to the introduced House Mouse, with larger rounded ears, larger eyes and lacking a notch on the inside of the upper incisors.
The charismatic little species has only been recorded in three areas across the state in the past 15 years, whereas historically it was recorded in ten, including metropolitan Melbourne. That’s why PhD student Phoebe Burns embarked upon this venture to determine the status of NHMs across Victoria and help protect this species from further decline. She says “One of the greatest challenges for studying the status and conservation of New Holland mice (and many native Australian rodents) is that they can be very difficult to find; you can’t just see them with your binoculars or hear them calling in the bush…. sometimes when a species is at low densities, it takes a huge amount of effort to be reasonably confident that the species isn’t there, which in a world of limited time and funding drastically reduces the area you can survey. This is a real challenge when your species moves in the landscape.”
Now she’s got the IDs sorted, she’ll be using cameras (and live traps) to survey across Victoria and see where the New Holland mouse is persisting, so that the team can do their best to halt the species’ further decline. It’s a great challenge, and we congratulate Phoebe Burns and her team for persistence and their contribution to conservation of our precious and unique wildlife.
(featured image: New Holland Mouse-Top 10 Extinct Creatures That Aren’t Extinct)