By Emily Gregg,
Only a few weeks ago the Arid Recovery lab was bustling with activity. Our annual pitfall trapping was underway and the reserve was swarming with staff and volunteers, all working to collect and process a host of native critters.
Some animals caught during annual trapping: Smooth Knob-tailed Gecko, Beaked Gecko, Stripe-faced Dunnart, and Painted Dragon (Photos by Ryan Francis)

On Saturday the 4th of March, the team set about digging out trenches and putting up the low fence-line running along the pitfall traps. Thanks to previous work by Arid Recovery staff, the Community Development Program and the Port Augusta Prison Work Camp, the pitfall traps themselves were already dug out, making our job that much easier.

Mel and her team digging out trenches and setting up pitfall lines. (Photos by Tony Pitt)

Once opened, the traps were checked at dawn and dusk, and each animal was placed in a catch bag and taken back to the lab for processing. Each animal was then released back to the same site the following day.

Mel’s team checking traps, featuring a newly captured Dunnart, some Plains Mice and a Broad-banded sand-swimmer in a pitfall trap (Photos by Melissa Jensen and Nathan Beerkens)

Our annual pitfall surveys give us the opportunity to get a grasp of the abundance and diversity of the small mammals and reptiles living within the reserve. They also provide a chance to compare populations inside and outside the fence, and see whether certain animals are doing better without the threat of feral predators.

Processing animals in the lab, featuring a baby Gibber Earless Dragon, a Plains Mouse, Beaked Gecko, and Barking Gecko
(Photos by Melissa Jensen and Emily Gregg)

This was an impressive year, with the team catching 778 animals in total! This number included a whopping 420 reptiles, and 358 mammals. This increase may be partially due to our altered trapping method; this year we replaced Elliot traps with an additional pitfall line at each site.

This year we also collected invertebrates during trapping. These insects and arthropods are being sent to La Trobe University for identification, in order to investigate the diversity of invertebrate species inside and outside the reserve.

Hopping Mouse, Western Barred Bandicoot, and Plains Mouse (Photos by Ryan Francis)

As explained in Kath’s last blog, the Plains Mouse (Pseudomys australis) is doing incredibly well within the reserve. This year we caught 236 of them! Of these, almost all were found within the reserve, with only eight found outside. It’s a similar story for the Spinifex Hopping Mouse (Notomys alexis), another species which the team saw a lot of over the course of trapping. A bonus mammal catch this year was a juvenile Western Barred Bandicoot (Perameles bougainville), found within the Main exclosure by Katherine Moseby’s team.

Thank you to all the volunteers involved this year. This annual survey would not be able to occur without your help and enthusiasm!

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