The reasonably mild weather, and the several spots of rain last evening hasn’t helped to increase our chances of catching large numbers of small mammals and reptiles, but we are persevering. This morning slightly higher numbers of mammals were brought into the lab, and it was positive to see only a few house mice in the bunch.
Once escorted back to the lab (via their chauffeured and air conditioned vehicles) it was mammals up first for processing. Mammals rather than reptiles are first, as they can become quite stressed in catch bags, and so we aim to remove them as quickly as possible, placing them in a large bucket with water, food and a toilet roll to hide out in. One of the first mammals pulled out of their bag for processing was a spinifex hopping mouse, clearly keen to get a move on, as he bounced his bag around the bench. Whilst at first looking harassed, it was soon discovered his slightly damp sheen was in fact oil from the peanut butter bait ball, which he had clearly been enjoying by the slightly rounded and bloated look of his face and belly!
A Plains Rat that has clearly been enjoying his peanut butter bait balls!
Another cute and furry mammal native to Australia is the Plains Rat (Pseudomys australis) which has been captured inside the Arid Recovery Reserve. This species was once widespread, from Western Australia, across the drier sections of South Australia and into the Northern Territory and Queensland. Unfortunately now their distribution has declined to the gibber plains of SA and the western Lake Eyre Basin, due largely to habitat damage by stock and predation by dingoes and foxes. These native rodents like to live in the cracking soils, and survive mostly on seeds and plants, with the occasional bit of fungus or insect thrown in. Like many Aussie animals, they do not need to drink water as they obtain it from metabolising their food.
With mammals processed and safely tucked away in their temporary toilet roll homes, it was on to reptiles, and skinks were in abundance today. Ctenotus schomburgkii, Ctenotus leonhardii and Ctenotus regius are all three common skinks in this area, and at first they all look similar. Upon closer inspection, and carefully assessing colours and markings on particular sections of the body, different species were determined.
The animals captured last night are now enjoying an air conditioned laboratory, with ample food, water and shelter, before they are bagged up again and released back to the sites they were captured at this evening.
For more photos of the captures and processing, please visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AridRecovery