Peanut butter, potoroos, and possums: the twelfth year of trapping at Booderee National Park

In 2003 ANU set up 110 monitoring sites within Booderee National Park at Jervis Bay. That Christmas a massive wildfire tore through the park, burning 50% of the park and sites. Since then, the research team has returned every year, for the past 14 years to monitor the effect of fire on mammals and reptiles at Booderee.

Native baby Bush Rat will have a small ear sample taken to be used in genetic analysis

This is a massive undertaking with six research staff and eight volunteers converging on Booderee for six days. In total around 592 traps are set out each night. Elliott (or box style) traps along with larger cage traps are laid along the 100m transect.

Mum and bub Common Brushtail Possum are commonly recorded in the Jervis Bay Fire Study - both in traps and on spotlight surveys

Over 12kg of peanut butter is mixed with rolled oats to produce thousands of bait balls which prove irresistible to mammals. These bliss balls are placed into nearly 600 traps set each night with anticipation of captures when checked in the early morning.

Bait balls made from peanut butter and rolled oats are used to lure mammals such as this Brown Antechinus

Lured in by the promise of peanut butter, regular customers this year included Brown Antechinus, Bush Rats, Swamp Rats, Eastern Chestnut Mice, Common Brushtail Possums and Long-nosed Bandicoots, plus the odd Eastern Bristlebird.

Found frequently soon after fire in low heath areas, Chestnut Mice are not commonly found in long un-burnt habitats

Although overall mammal numbers were low compared to previous years, the diversity of species caught was high and varied. This year, even a couple of Echidna’s wandered into investigate the cage traps. At another site, a Red-bellied Black snake decided an Elliott trap was a good place to snooze – much to the surprise of our staff!

By far the best outcome of the trapping week was the recapture of a Long-nosed Potoroo. These small macropods have only been reintroduced to the park in the park in the past year.

Long-nosed Potoroo were introduced to Booderee National Park in November 2014

With a quick microchip scan, it was determined that the male had not been seen since last captured in November 2014. Determined to be healthy and at a good weight, he was caught over 1km from the original release site in heathy woodland.

It is encouraging to find healthy individuals of Long-nosed Potoroo on our trapping camps

Many thanks to Emma, Sarah, Booderee Ranger Richard, Roger, Luke, Christina, Hanss & Isabella - the volunteers who braved the ticks, leeches and marsh flies this year to assist the trap camp. Thanks also to the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community and staff at Booderee National Park who facilitate our field work at Booderee.

Volunteer Christina cheerfully cleans traps after an intense trapping week

Much of the excitement this year was tweeted via the #JBfirestudy hashtag. Check it out for all the mammal trapping action! 

The trapping camp also acts as a Christmas break-up for the research team and marks the final field work for the year. Merry Christmas to you all from our team, and a Happy New Year!