By Tracey Moore
After 6 weeks of trapping for small mammals, amphibians and reptiles in wandoo woodlands I feel safe to say I have seen some amazing fauna and some funny sights.
From the large varanid who stuffed himself inside an Elliot trap as the rolled up tissue paper smelt like a house mouse from the night before, to the western pygmy possum who was sheltering underneath the larger western spotted frog in a pit fall trap (lucky frogs are insectivores) and the capture of the red tailed phascogale (Phascogale calura), an endangered arboreal carnivore that is not easily trapped.
All of these events have occurred at Dryandra State Forest and Wandoo Conservation Park where I have set up 24 trapping grids to investigate the impact of wandoo crown decline on the wildlife of the area. Using three types of pit fall traps, elliot traps, funnel traps and cage traps I have caught dunnarts (Sminthopsis grisoventer), mardos (Antechinus flavipes), pygmy possums (Cercartetus concinnus), geckos ranging from the large Underwoodisaurus milii (barking gecko) to the small Crenadactylus ocellatus (marbled gecko), skinks including the large king skink (Egernia kingii) to the tiny Morethia obscura (obscure skink) and the common bobtail, varanids, blind snakes, legless lizards, dragons, elapids, over 200 frogs, one echidna (Tachyglossus aculeata) and the list goes on.
So after all of these very early morning and hours of digging in very hard clay soils to install my pitfall traps what have I learnt about wandoo crown decline and its relationship with the fauna? I have discovered that fauna is completely unpredictable and looks at the habitat structure from a completely different perspective to you and I. Very few species trapped so far demonstrate that the decline is impacting on their environment. Lack of a solid relationship between the decline and trapped species could be explained by the patchiness of the wandoo decline enabling species to avoid those trees demonstrating decline and head straight for healthy wandoo trees or vice versa depending on their preference. Throughout the next year further trapping will continue to attempt to reveal the links between wandoo crown decline and wildlife. Commencement of bird surveys looking indirectly at the impact of wandoo crown decline on their food resources, terrestrial vertebrate diggings and other signs of activity will be monitored to investigate how larger vertebrates use trees in different states of health and if there’s time, tracking pygmy possums to investigate their foraging resources.