Shape and spatial distribution of Mulgara (Dasycercus cristicauda) burrows, with comments on their presence in a burnt habitat and a translocation protocol
Royal Society of Western Australia Inc.
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The Crest-tailed Mulgara (Dasycercus cristicauda), a species listed as vulnerable under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) and as a Schedule 1 species under the Western Australian Conservation Act (1950), was once found throughout arid central Australia and Western Australia, but its geographic range has been significantly reduced. The spatial distribution and shape of Mulgara burrows is described for an area that was subsequently cleared in the Pilbara of Western Australia. The area contained a substantial cover (» 50% cover) of spinifex (Triodia sp.) tussocks to about 600 mm high and scattered shrubs when first searched in June 2006 but had been burnt (November 2006) by the time Mulgara were to be translocated before the vegetation was cleared in January 2007. Burrows contained between two and nine entrances, tunnels were mostly on a single level and to a depth of about 300 mm. The lumen for a burrow entrance was typically an arch over a flat bottom with a height of 70-80 mm, and a width of 80-100 mm at the base. Internal tunnels were mostly 50-70 mm wide. Burrows entrances in the burnt landscape were mostly in the open. There was one burrow per 2.5 ha in the area searched, but this was probably a ‘hot-spot’ for Mulgara for the region. Four Mulgara were caught in 750 Elliott trap-nights and five by digging out 65 recently active burrows in an area of about 22 ha. From this we concluded that a substantial trapping effort was required to trap all the Mulgara in an area. If Mulgara are being translocated from an area, then we would recommend an intensive trapping program combined with searching for and digging out all recently active burrows in the area. Strategies to enhance the capture of Mulgara are discussed.