For the first time in 17 years, a species of mouse described as a “dumpling on legs” has been discovered on Flinders Island in Tasmania.
- The New Holland mouse was last seen in northeast Tasmania in 2004
- The mouse was captured sniffing a stick of peanut butter on a remote camera on Flinders Island
- Other surveys will be used to inform a national recovery plan for the species.
The New Holland mouse, scientifically known as Pseudomys novaehollandiae, was feared to be extinct as the last evidence of its existence was detected more than 12 years ago in the Waterhouse Conservation Area.
The last time a New Holland mouse was trapped was near wukalina / Mt William in the northeast in 2004.
Billie Lazenby, a wildlife biologist in the Endangered Species and Conservation Department of the Primary Industrial Parks Water and Environment Department (DPIPWE), said the mouse was a remarkable species.
“Our average house mouse is smelly and has a tendency to invade our homes and loot our food closets and it’s even a problem to live in the agricultural landscape,” she said.
“The New Holland mouse is nothing like it; it has very specific habitat requirements, it tends to be found in pristine areas far removed from human habitation.
“If there was a cuteness factor for mice, the New Holland mouse would get 10 out of 10 stars. It’s like a little dumpling on its legs, it doesn’t have a lot of neck, it is really fluffy, it has very big eyes and a long tail. “
Investigations were carried out at sites where the mouse had previously been detected in Tasmania, and Ms Lazenby said she used a number of techniques to detect the animal.
“One is that we roll out what we call little capillary tubes, so they’re little pieces of PVC pipe that have nice, delicious, smelly bait at the end, and they have a bit of double-sided tape.” said Ms Lazenby.
“So when the little mammals come in there, they leave hair samples behind, and we can send those hair samples to a lab, and they can be analyzed and they can identify what species they belong to.
“The main technique we use, and the one in which we recently captured a New Holland mouse on Flinders Island, are remote cameras.”
Footage of the species was captured as she walked past the remote camera to sniff a stick dipped in peanut butter and sit on a bait box filled with oatmeal, sunflower seeds , peanut butter and alfalfa straw.
As a result of the discovery, remote cameras and capillary tubes are now in place to monitor the population of the species in the vicinity of where the photographs were taken.
The New Holland mouse faces several threats including severe fires, fire regimes, changes in precipitation regimes, habitat fragmentation and predation and competition with introduced species such as house mice and wild cats.
In a statement, Tasmanian Environment Minister Roger Jaensch said further investigative work would help inform a national recovery plan for the species.
“Last year, the Tasmanian government received funding from the Commonwealth to undertake a conservation assessment of the New Holland mouse,” he said.
The study on Flinders Island is part of a larger survey in northeast Tasmania for the New Holland mouse, which so far has covered eight regions and included the placement of more than 259 cameras at different places.
“We are committed to sharing information and working collaboratively with our interstate counterparts to ensure effective management and recovery of the species throughout its range.”
Later this year, DPIPWE will organize a national workshop to discuss potential causes of decline, compare management practices across species and identify key knowledge gaps to help guide future management.