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INTERIM REPORT ON THE POPULATION AND DISTRIBUTION OF THE NORTHERN SPOTTED-TAILED QUOLL DASYURUS MACULATUS GRACILIS IN THE MISTY MOUNTAINS COMPLEX ALBERTO N. VALE The northern Spotted-tailed Quoll Dasyurus maculatus gracilis (nSTQ’s) is found only in the wet tropics of North Queensland (Nth Qld). Population and distribution studies (Burnett 2001) provided significant evidence of the decline of the nSTQ’s in the region. Seventeen years later a current and more advanced individual study on the population and distribution of nSTQ’s, specifically at the Misty Mountains, is being undertaken by the Australian Quoll Conservancy (AQC), to investigate the potential raft of changes and effects which may have occurred, in population distribution post 2001. This interim report, identifies the existence of several individual quolls at one location and therefore, the likely existence of a fragmented population at higher altitude in the Misty Mountains. AQC is now engaging in further surveys, over higher and into more inaccessible areas of these mountainous ranges, to establish more reliable population numbers and distribution. AQC work has been provided with in-kind assistance by rangers from the Innisfail Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) and the Wet Tropics Management Authority and Gambling Community Benefit Fund (GCBF).

METHODS Study Site In North Queensland, the subspecies D. maculatus gracilis is historically known to still exist at Mount Bartle Frere (highest mountain range in Nth Qld). Its closer proximity to the Misty Mountain ranges, suggests that quolls may still be using adjacent forestry areas as a wildlife corridor. Misty Mountains National Park complex has a 130

km network of short and long wilderness tracks through pristine, high-altitude rainforest, with remote and inaccessible parts of the complex reaching up to 917 metres. Boasting a wet tropical

regime with crystal clear creeks, waterfalls and panoramic views some tracks are suitable only for bushwalkers, while others are shared tracks with mountain biking permitted. The Misty Mountains wilderness tracks are located in an area bounded by Tully, Innisfail, Mena Creek, Millaa Millaa and Ravenshoe including Tully Falls, Tully Gorge and Wooroonooran national parks. Between 1962 to 1992, only 10 reliable recorded Quoll sightings were registered as a positive indication of the presence of the species. These sightings are noted as sporadic, due to the cryptic behaviour of the nSTQ’s. All sightings occurred in close proximity to or within the current survey site, these being at Massey Creek, Charappa Forestry Camp, Sutties Gap Road, Palmerston National Park and Palmerston Highway, along the power line track South Johnstone and Mena Creek 8.5 km South East of Millaa Millaa. (Burnet 1999-2001) The more recent records occurred in 2014, with the first quoll images, appearing on a QPWS camera being used to monitor a Hoghopper (feral pig baiting system). The images were first recorded in August and October 2014 and again in May 2015. Those recent images of quolls, prompted a survey project launched by the AQC personnel in association with Innisfail QPWS rangers. The February 2018

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project also had a secondary benefit, to allow Innisfail QPWS to investigate changes and effects which may have occurred, including wildlife prey depletion, affects from higher human population in this National Park, introduced pests and habitat alteration, including disrupted wildlife corridors. This interim report provides evidence that a fragmented population of nSTQs still exists in the Misty Mountains areas, now assisting AQC and QPWS in determining the necessary actions to ensure the long term survival of the species.

and pigs. The lure holding apparatus was modified from the initial deployed kvassay plastic lattice bag, to a secured pig and dingo proof canister. Known as DeNunes Canisters tm (Alberto Vale) these were constructed from commercially available PVC pipe 1,000 mm x 100 mm diameter, then cut to several 200 mm lengths, with two 100 mm caps fitted unglued and placed at either end of the shortened pipe sections. Caps were then centre drilled to accommodate the insertion of a 10 mm x 600 mm long threaded rod.

Motion Sensor Cameras, Lures and Survey Stages The AQC Misty Mountains survey, started on the third quarter of 2015, using the northern periphery of the national park boundaries, stretching the net of cameras work inwards, using existing roads with a mean altitude of 600 to 700 m. (p. 1)

Side walls of the canister were randomly perforated to allow bait to release aroma of the decomposing chicken frames. Once the lure attractant was inserted into the canister and caps were firmly

Although the species appear to maintain a preferred altitude above 900 m, it is not uncommon to have occasional sightings at lower altitudes in the adjacent forested areas. (e.g. Woopen Ck and Golden Hole) These sightings are relatively frequent during the winter months, where temperatures become suitable for most placental and marsupial mammal species living in the tropics. However, a combination of other factors were apparently important, including the lack of permanent water supply in the initially surveyed areas, appearing to be a deterrent for success in finding these species within in this suitable territorial or roaming area.

Ten motion sensor cameras were initially deployed at 1 km intervals resulting in 11,520 camera trapping hours. Bait lures were assembled and secured with cable ties directly opposite the viewing angle of the camera, consisting of a plastic lattice Kvassay bag holder (Glenn Kvassay) containing commercially available chicken frames. The plastic lattice holding the lure bag initially used, was found to be easily damaged by dingoes

closed, the threaded rod was inserted and positioned through the centered hole in each cap and driven onto the ground. Holding threaded rod was then locked, with a 10 mm nut. The ability of free rotating movement of the canister, stopped larger animals, including dingoes and pigs from displacing or destroying the apparatus or removing the lure contents. Although still being able to be damaged by large rainforest rodents like Giant white-tailed rat (Uromys caudimaculatus), this new non feeding February 2018

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lure apparatus has proven to be extremely reliable against dingoes, pigs and cattle. (p. 3) In 2016 and continuing into 2017, the secondary stage of surveys began, using 25 motion sensor cameras in a two year field deployment. Cameras and bait were regularly maintained by Innisfail QPWS rangers. The cameras operated through the

entire 24 months, resulting in 219,000 camera trapping hours with 728 volunteer hours. Quolls were again detected on AQC cameras, this time 6 new quolls were captured, (p.3) with one image, capturing only the animal face and not the spotted body and tail of the animal, making it impossible to determine if the individual was new or had previously visited the area. Towards the end of 2017, only five AQC cameras were left in the field, monitoring the only area that appeared to be, the lower altitude and possibly the outer edge of these quolls’ territory. As seasonal temperatures climbed, cameras started to show less quoll activity, supporting the idea that these animals move to higher altitudes during the hotter summer months. RESULTS Misty Mountains 130 km of roads and walking tracks. After 3 months the 2nd stage surveyed section of extensive park road and walking tracks network were surveyed with the collaboration and assistance of Innisfail QPWS, again showing the existence of nSTQ’s. The Maalan area of the park was once a regular sighting area for nSTQ’s, so the now low numbers of sightings of this species indicates a probable decline in numbers and contraction of its original distribution. AQC/QPWS rangers do not believe the term ‘Critically Endangered’ is being misused in reference to the northern ‘race’ of D. m.gracilis . Fortunately only two feral cats was detected in the surveyed area, and the eradication of this species appears to have been successful. QPWS rangers believe feral cats are not in high numbers in this park area. However progress is been

made to compare that to other areas in Wooroonooran where QPWS know they occur. Other wildlife detected by the AQC/QPWS camera survey, showed an encouraging number (7) of Lumholtz Tree kangaroos. Whilst it is impossible to say if any were repeat occurrences, this observation hopefully indicates a healthy population. Red Legged Pademelons (Thylogale stigmata); were by far the most commonly detected wildlife species, with females observed to be have joeys at all sites. Unfortunately a considerable number of feral pigs were also detected. Their damage is obvious and despite QPWS destroying 37 pigs in the area over the past year, habitat damage has not decreased. The rainforest Dingoes appear to be doing well with 16 detections, probably as a result of the healthy Pademelon population. Musky Rat Kangaroos were also quite often detected. Other wildlife regularly capture on camera were: • Chowchilla* (Orthonyx spaldingii) • Orange Footed Scrub Fowl* (Megapodius reinwardt) • Water Rat* (Hydromys chrysogaster) • Echidna* (Tachyglossus aculeatus) • Emerald Dove* (Chalcophaps indica) • Noisy Pitta* (Pitta versicolor) • Red-necked Crake* (Rallina tricolor) • Cane Toad (2) (Rhinella marina) • White Browed Scrubwren* (Sericornis frontalis) • Brush Turkey* (Alectura lathami) • Fawn- Footed Melomy/ Bush Rat* (Melomys cervinipes) & (Rattus fuscipes) • Giant white-tailed rat* (Uromys caudimaculatus) * these represent several detections of these species. DISCUSSION AQC is now preparing for the 3rd stage of the Misty Mountains nSTQ’s survey to confirm the existence of a breeding quoll colony, (highlighted map in red) this area lies in very dense and inaccessible higher altitude terrain. (p.4) It is intended that once this colony is found, AQC personnel will identify gender, pouch development in females and the recruitment of new juvenile quolls, using QuollC tm Camera Systems adapted and adopted by WildCAM Australia® (the developers of a non invasive camera technique). These images will provide by either photographed or videograph of the animals’ body (with spot pattern used for individual recognition) at close range, with no need for physical contact. This system will be further used on a yearly basis, to help with the annual monitoring and management of Spotted-tailed quolls in this National Park. The continuous in-kind assistance between AQC personnel and Innisfail QPWS rangers, will be of utmost importance to the success of this final stage survey for this area in 2018 and 2019. February 2018

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REFERENCES Burnett, SE. 2001. Ecology and Conservation Status of the northern Spotted-tailed Quoll, Dasyurus maculatus, Thesis (Ph.D.) - James Cook University, published (2001). Vale, AN and Jackson, L. 2016. Camera-trap surveys of the northern Spotted-tailed Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus gracilis) in the Cairns to Innisfail hinterland. North Queensland Naturalist issue 46, pp. 99-106 (2016) Vale, AN and Jackson, L. 2017. Interim Closure of Kauri Creek Road To Establish Road Usage Impacts During The Breeding Cycle of The Northern Spotted-tailed Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus gracilis), https:// issuu.com/albertovale1/docs/kauri_ck_rd_closure_report ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Chris Roach Innisfail QPWS Ranger provided the bulk assistance of this fieldwork. Also grateful for the field assistance provided on occasion by Emmaline Hardy, Luke Jackson and Glen Kvassay and other QPWS park rangers and managers. Dr. Tom Grant for providing the useful revision and editorial comments on earlier drafts. QPWS, the Wet Tropics Management Authority for their in-kind assistance and the audited funding from Gambling Community Benefit Fund (GCBF) for the purchase of motion sensor cameras and related field equipment. Š Alberto Vale 2018 This work is copyright. The Copyright Act 1968 permits fair dealing for study, research, information or educational purposes. Selected text, diagrams or images may be reproduced for such purposes provided acknowledgement of the source is included. Major extracts of the entire document are not be reproduced by any medium or process. This document should be cited as: Vale A. (2018) Interim Report On The Population And Distribution Of The Northern Spotted-Tailed Quoll Dasyurus Maculatus Gracilis in The Misty Mountains Complex, publication Australian Quoll Conservancy, Cairns, Australia.

Image Courtesy WTMA February 2018

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February 2018

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INTERIM REPORT POPULATION & DISTRIBUTION OF THE NORTHERN SPOTTED-TAILED QUOLL - MISTY MT COMPLEX  

The northern Spotted-tailed Quoll Dasyurus maculatus gracilis (nSTQ’s) is found only in the wet tropics of North Queensland (Nth Qld). Popul...

INTERIM REPORT POPULATION & DISTRIBUTION OF THE NORTHERN SPOTTED-TAILED QUOLL - MISTY MT COMPLEX  

The northern Spotted-tailed Quoll Dasyurus maculatus gracilis (nSTQ’s) is found only in the wet tropics of North Queensland (Nth Qld). Popul...

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