Locating nests for the vulnerable water mouse (Xeromys myoides) is not always an easy job, but luckily researcher Janina Kaluza is not afraid of the mud and mozzies if there is a chance of finding evidence of these little fellows in south east Queensland’s coastal wetland areas.
The water mouse inhabits coastal areas of central and south east Queensland, Northern Territory and New Guinea, and is typically found in coastal saltmarsh and mangrove areas. A key sign of their presence is their nesting mounds, which range from free-standing mounds in saltwater couch grasslands to sheltered mounds in opportunistic sites such as the base of old grey mangrove trees (Avicennia marina) located within the intertidal zone. The water mouse forages in the mangroves at night, feasting on invertebrates such as crabs, shellfish and snails. Loss, fragmentation and degradation of their mangrove and saltmarsh habitats are key threats to their survival.
With funding made available through local council conservation and environment grants, WetlandCare Australia, now merged with Conservation Volunteers Australia, and Janina Kaluza worked with Redland City Council, Moreton Bay Regional Council, Logan City Council and the City of Gold Coast to undertake several small water mice survey projects in potential habitat areas from north of the Coomera River to Beachmere. The combined information from these projects contributed towards completing the jigsaw puzzle on water mice in south east Queensland. There is still a lot we don’t know about this native rodent, with the data collected through mapping and monitoring work being an important step in assisting the implementation of the ‘National Recovery Plan for the water mouse (false water rat) Xeromys myoides’ and the delivery of a coordinated approach to its conservation.
A summary of the survey outcomes for each project is listed below, with good news in the confirmation of the presence of the water mouse in three of the survey areas. Conservation Volunteers Australia is currently in the process of finalising the projects and submitting all data to the relevant councils.
Redland City Council
This project focused on surveying key habitat areas on Russell Island, one of the Southern Moreton Bay Islands, with funding support from a Redland City Council’s Conservation Grant. The water mouse had been recorded on the island as a result of survey work in the 1990’s. Surveys in May 2015 confirmed that the water mouse is still present on the island. The local community group, Bay Islands Conservation Inc and their ‘Work for the Dole’ project participants, assisted in the survey work, bringing their local knowledge of the area to the project.
City of Gold Coast
With funding support through the City of Gold Coast’s Community Grants Program, and in consultation with council staff, survey work in March 2016 focussed around the McCoys Creek area. Joined in the field by local ecologists, several nests were located.
Logan City Council
Through the Logan City Council’s EnviroGrants, WetlandCare Australia surveyed several potential habitat areas on the Logan River in March 2016. Unfortunately not all habitat areas were conducive for surveying and no positive signs or evidence of the water mouse was found.
Moreton Bay Regional Council
In March 2016 WetlandCare Australia conducted water mice surveys near the mouth of the Caboolture River with funding support through the Moreton Bay Regional Council’s Community Grants Program. This project resulted in confirming the presence of the water mouse in the area. The water mouse has been recorded previously at nearby Donnybrook.