You are currently viewing In search of elusive bandicoot families

In search of elusive bandicoot families

PICTURES: Bandicoot snout poke (above), Swamp Wallaby (below), but no actual recordings of bandicoots. Credit: Ted Stein.

In search of elusive bandicoot families
Signs but no sightings – University of Newcastle research project raises concerns that require further investigation.

Munibung Bandicoots: Investigating presence and population of bandicoots within a suburban habitat island. This research project was conducted by Ted Stein*, The findings of the study were presented in May. Ted writes:

First forays yielded evidence of Bandicoot presence in the form of diggings (“snout pokes”) adjacent to the foot track along the south-western ridge. The vegetation, soil and geospatial context of the site appeared suitable Bandicoot habitat from formative evaluation. Desktop reviews were conducted following the visit to verify likelihood of Bandicoot occupation using targeted species records on the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) database.

ALA bandicoot records within site and in 25km radius in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, revealed: 493 records between 1960 – present, 352 I. macrourus and 141 P. nasuta.

Targeted diurnal field studies were carried out across multiple locations within the Munibung Hill site to record instances of bandicoot habitation. 23 transect surveys 20m in length were conducted periodically over the Jan-March period in 2022, recording coordinates, bandicoot evidence (diggings, nests, fur, sightings), evidence of other species present and relevant environmental factors – but no physical bandicoots. 

•  The south western sections of the hill exhibiting clustered bandicoot signs were adjacent to foot trails in dry and moist sclerophyll with 80-90% ground cover and clear of the forest canopy. Vegetation in these clearings was chiefly native and invasive grasses and shrubs including A. longifolia, Allocasuarina and E. cupressiformis. This section was within sight and noise range of earthworks plant and machinery excavating development site.

•  The northern sections of the site also yielding signs of bandicoot foraging activity were also directly adjacent to foot tracks, in a disturbed area populated by dense thickets of L. camara and Pampas grass. Ground cover was sparser than the southern section at 30-40%, with less invasive grasses and canopy dominated by C. maculata and C. cunninghamiana

Camera traps were left for 3 consecutive days before retrieval.

Long-nosed Bandicoots are an adaptive species and have been commonly observed in suburban areas and backyards within the Lake Macquarie region. Information and observations gathered during this project give evidence towards Northern Long nosed and/or Northern bandicoots occupation within Munibung Hill, roaming where foraging conditions and food availability is sufficient.

Evidence collected during surveys of feral species within the site such as the European fox (Vulpes vulpes) and rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) pose a significant threat to bandicoot populations within the site, as well as visitations by domestic dogs and cats. The encroachment of residential and commercial development into the lower foothills is another key stressor to bandicoot and other cohabitants due to degradation of habitat and increasing competition for resources.

Other threats including habitat disturbance from trail bikes and mountain biking may decrease with implementation of the LMCC Munibung Hill Management Plan, which prohibits these activities within the area.

Potential avenues for extending the research conducted during this project may involve investigation into the numbers and impact of feral and domestic cats visiting or inhabiting the site.

Cats present one of the most severe hazards to our native marsupials and mammals, particularly species such as the bandicoot that are obligate ground dwellers lacking in defence morphology.

Bandicoots provide essential bioturbation in natural areas, aerating soil to maintain soil quality through nutrient turnover. This is a relevant function within the site, which has significant erosion and compaction issues. To secure potential bandicoot populations within the area, more comprehensive soil testing is suggested to identify contamination from previous mining activities.

Groups such as MHCS that consistently care for and monitor the land, coordinate efforts to remediate it and publicly promote its importance are immensely valuable to the conservation of the site.

*NOTE: University of Newcastle 3rd year student in Environmental Science, under the supervision of Professor Matt Hayward. 

MHCS is disappointed that no physical bandicoots were detected on Munibung Hill. The study prompts us to continue setting camera traps in an attempt to verify that the signs of bandicoot presence – “snout pokes” and nest sites – are true indicators of a healthy population. Or are they left overs from what used to be bandicoot presence that has been driven to local extinction by feral animals and other human induced factors? 

MMM … Issue 31, July 2022