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What is Killing our Native Wildlife in Brisbane and Tasmania?

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by Roz Glazebrook (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Brisbane. I love bushwalking, kayaking, wildlife, history and travel.
Published March 22nd 2017
You don't have to go far to see native wildlife in Brisbane. I have a lot in my own backyard and I always see a lot when I go walking around the tracks in the parks and bush nearby. When I moved to Brisbane from North Queensland, I bought a house with lots of trees and bush and there was a park in front of the house. I've had lots of birds visiting including lorikeets, sulphur crested cockatoos, butcherbirds, magpies and kookaburras. I also have brush tailed and ring tailed possums.

I woke one morning to a rustling sound outside my bedroom window and saw a blue tongue lizard high up on the screen. Another morning I was eating breakfast on my deck and the birds were all screaming at me. I looked down and there was a large python right beside my chair. I jumped up and my cereal bowl and spoon went flying. The snake wasn't worried. It curled up and slept all day in the sun. It had gone next morning and is probably still living in my overgrown bushy backyard. Every time I think I should clean up the yard I see more wildlife and feel I should leave it wild for the animals and birds. Only a few days ago I saw two pheasant coucals in the yard.

Blue tongue lizard on window
Blue tongue lizard on window

Python on deck
Python on deck

I've been seeing a lot of dead wildlife lately, and I'm starting to wonder what is killing some of them. The first dead animal I saw was a water rat (Hydromys chrysogaster). I saw it on my walk along the track near my home. It was belly up in Cabbage Tree Creek. I fished it out with a stick so the body wouldn't contaminate the creek. It was decomposing so I couldn't see what caused it to die. Water rats are beautiful animals with gorgeous soft fur, webbed feet and long white tipped tails. They used to be hunted for their fur until they became protected.

dead water rat
Dead water rat

They used to live along the Townsville breakwater and steal fishermen's bait at night. They live in burrows on the bank of rivers, lakes and estuaries and feed on aquatic insects, fish, crustaceans, mussels, snails, frogs, birds' eggs and water birds. The main threats to water rats now are habitat alteration as a result of flood mitigation and swamp drainage, and predation by introduced animals such as cats and foxes.

About a week later I came across a snake a bit further along the same track. It was tangled in a knot and lying upside down with a large bulge in its stomach. I was worried about it because it looked like its head was underwater. I took a photo and sent it to a snake catcher. He suggested I throw a stick at it. I did and the stick hit it lightly but the snake didn't move. I then rang and emailed the photo to the RSPCA. They said it looked dead so I left it. When I walked along the same track next morning it was gone, so someone either moved it, or it wasn't dead and untangled itself and slithered away. I guess I will never know.

Dead snake
Dead snake

I went on a holiday to Tasmania for a few weeks recently. One morning I was out in a friend's backyard with her dog. She lives on 5 acres. I was just walking around the yard, talking to the horse and the dog was sniffing around the fenced yard. Suddenly she had something in her mouth. At first I thought it was a rabbit as they get a lot of rabbits in their area. I yelled at the dog and it dropped the creature. It was a beautiful Eastern Barred Bandicoot, and even though it didn't have any marks on it, it died very quickly, probably from shock. It was very distressing. I think the bandicoot must have been sheltering in a large pile of wood and the dog flushed it out. It was very quick. Only a few days later I found another dead barred bandicoot. This one was on a quiet country road and had been run over by a car.

Dead bandicoot
Dead Eastern Barred Bandicoot

Bandicoots forage at night using their sensitive noses to smell out food. They are opportunistic omnivores, eating plants and animals. They eat insects, lizards, mice and snails, fungi, grass seeds, berries and fruit. The soft, sandy greyish-brown fur is patterned with three to four distinctive diagonal pale bars on the hindquarters, giving the species its common name and distinguishing it from the brown bandicoot, which lacks such stripes. It is a small, rabbit-sized marsupial native to Tasmania and Victoria.

The main threats to bandicoots are habitat loss from urbanisation and land clearing, predation from foxes, cats and dogs, and collisions with vehicles. Native predators include snakes, owls, quolls and dingoes.

On Scamander beach on the East Coast of Tasmania, I found a couple of dead fairy penguins. I don't know what killed them, but I did read there had been a lot of penguins washing up dead around the state while I was there.

Dead fairy penguin
Dead fairy penguin

On another visit to the same beach, I found a dead seal. It was partly covered with sand. I have also seen lots of other animals killed by cars on the Tasmanian roads. I've seen dead Tasmanian devils, possums, wallabies and echidnas on roads there.

Dead seal
Dead seal

After getting back to Brisbane, I went for a walk along the local track by the creek. I was thinking about all the dead native animals I had seen in the last few weeks. Even a few days before I had seen a dead ring tailed possum on the road on my way to the movies at Stafford. It had been run over. I was just walking along thinking about this when I came across another dead ring tailed possum laying by the side of the track. I wondered what had killed it. It looked fresh and didn't appear to have any wounds. I wondered if a dog had killed it, although possums are nocturnal so that was unlikely.

Dead ring tailed possum
Dead ring tailed possum

I know dogs, cats, foxes and cars kill a lot of our native wildlife, but some of the other deaths are still a mystery.
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I don't know the answer, but I can suggest a probable cause for wildlife casualties in Brisbane: cane toads. I recently found one in my backyard in Stafford.
by jsand (score: 0|3) 2264 days ago

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