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Fauna Forensics

Fauna Forensics

Last week, we joined a group of Land for Wildlife (Lockyer Valley) landholders for a fascinating workshop presented by Martin Fingland from Geckos Wildlife.

It was a great opportunity to build our working knowledge of native species in our landscape.  Most species are seldom seen, so important clues to their presence might be a footprint left on a muddy track, scats (droppings), pellets, sounds, nests, scattered bones, skins and odours.

We learned how to be bush detectives to identify the wildlife visitors that we might not see, but live close by.

Here are some tips to help solve the mystery, but first a few important warnings:

  1. All native animals, both alive and dead, are protected by law. This includes eggs, bones, skins, and any part of a native creature.
  2. Scats, pellets and other wildlife evidence may carry parasites that can be harmful to humans, so wear gloves or use tweezers.

Tracks

These are often difficult to identify unless they’re fresh.

  • Paired tracks are usually birds (3 toes forward and 1 backwards).
  • A continuous trail with footprints at the side might be a lizard or a mammal that drags its body such as an echidna.
  • Mammals have different front and hind prints with toe and palm, pad and heel.

Scats (Droppings)

The contents and composition of scats are often good indicators of the species.

  • Bird droppings are often found under a roost or nest, are sloppy or splattered, and are dark with white (uric acid).
  • Mammal scats are highly variable in size and shape but specifically related to the species. They are dark without white uric acid, and the contents indicate if it has been left by a carnivore, herbivore, or omnivore.
  • Reptiles leave dark with white uric acid scats and are usually firm and semi-concealed.
PooFlip
Fauna Forensics

These are a couple of excellent resources that you might find in your local library.

Nests

  • Birds build nests that are often specific to each breed, so use a Bird ID guide to identify the birds nesting in your garden.  Birds Queensland has some excellent online resources.
  • Ringtail Possums build bulky stick and leaf nests called dreys.
  • Bandicoots build nests woven from leaves and grass, often under a log.
  • Platypuses excavate long burrows in creek banks, often under tree roots.
  • Antechinuses and Phascogales pile leaves and grass inside hollows.
  • Echidnas create short burrows, often in termite mounds.

Sounds

Birds, frogs, and many mammals make distinctive vocalisations that can help with identification.  Apps are available that record the sounds and link these to specific species

Skins

One way to identify snakes and lizards that shed whole skins is to count and look at the arrangement of the scales.  Snake ID guides are a useful reference.

Python in our garden

This is a beautiful Coastal Carpet Python (Morelia spilota variegata) that lives in our garden.  We often find snake skins that have been shed by snakes.

Common Snakes in the Lockyer Valley

Common Snakes of the Lockyer Valley Backyards from Australian Snake Identification, Education + Advocacy (ASIEA). This Facebook Group is an excellent way to have experts identify snakes in your area.

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