It was with a huge sigh of relief that Arid Recovery staff and volunteers were able to sit back and relax last Friday evening after the last of the critters caught during annual trapping was released. The hard work didn’t end there though.
After sweeping out a week of red sand from the vehicles staff sat down to begin plugging the pages and pages of data into the computer. Although we are still entering data we can give average numbers of those who were caught during the week. Approximately 180 reptiles were pulled out of pit fall traps and nearly 500 small mammals fell for the peanut butter and oat ball baits. Although numbers aren’t as high as last year this is most likely due to the drying off of much of the vegetation and the fact that last year’s trapping was undertaken in the middle of a mouse plague.
Probably the highlight of the reptiles caught was the desert banded snake. With the start of the week being relatively mild this was good news for field work but not so much for the reptiles we wanted to be catching. Towards the end of the week this specimen of desert banded snake fell into one of our pit fall traps located outside the reserve. Usually growing to about 21 centimetres in length these guys tend to burrow just below the surface of the sand to hide.
Spinifex Hopping Mice were the most abundant mammal with a few Stripe Faced Dunnarts, Fat tailed Dunnarts, Plains Rats and a Bolam’s Mouse to mix it up a little. “I noticed during my own processing and from a quick glance at the notes of others, that nearly none of the ‘Hoppers’ were breeding,” said ecologist Helen Crisp, “This might be in response to the conditions around them, with grasses and seeds drying off and food becoming scarce they try to control their populations.”
With the rain clouds looking to hang around the Roxby Downs region for the rest of the week, staff will be confined to the office, plugging away at the data to determine what trends, if any, are presenting over the 14 years of trapping.