Landscape and spatial ecology of the Tasmanian masked owl

​Application for Scientific Permit – Available for Public Comment 

Public comment on the following application for a Scientific Research (Fauna) Permit is open until 9 July 2018.​

Applicant: Australian National University

Species/Taxon: Tasmanian masked owl (target species), prey (non-target species)

Location: Public, private and National Parks forest reserves; and adjacent agricultural and urban crown and private freehold lands (all of Tasmania).

Title of research: Landscape and spatial ecology of the Tasmanian masked owl

Aim of project: Our project aims to: 
​​1) assess masked owl occupancy, density, demography and population genetic structure, 
2) investigate masked owl home range characteristics (distribution/size) and fine-scale habitat use (nesting/roosting/foraging),
3) evaluate the outcomes of aims 1 and 2 in relation to available critical habitat (large hollow bearing trees) and landscape productivity (nesting vs feeding habitat).

Justification: The Tasmanian masked owl is endangered. The masked owl depends on the largest/rarest class of tree hollows for breeding. The persistence of large hollow bearing trees is under threat from multiple processes including logging, modernising infrastructure/agricultural practices, die-back and wildfires. The research aims to define and quantify 1) the distribution of critical habitat and 2) landscape productivity characteristics that support healthy masked owl populations. This information is novel and critical for land management, conservation, and informing decisions about retention rates in logging, approvals for land conversion and reserve design.

Maximum likely numbers of individuals: We will survey large areas making it difficult to predict the numbers of animals that will be detected, but we predict it will be >200 owl detections. Up to 40 owls may be fitted with GPS-VHF tags.

Activities undertaken and methods:
  • Simultaneous nocturnal call broadcasts and diurnal detection dog surveys across the survey area defined by a mosaic of forest, agriculture and urban environments. Detection dogs are trained to detect pellets and shed feathers, thus indicating owl presence/use. Pellets/shed feathers will be collected and used to investigate population genetics, demographics and diets. This will be supplemented from the masked owl collections of TMAG and QVMAG.
  • To investigate fine-scale habitat use and home range characteristics, a cohort of masked owl will be captured and fitted with dual GPS-VHF tags allowing for both radio and GPS telemetry 
  • Characterisation of masked owl habitat with geographic information systems (GIS), ground surveys and tree climbs. Sound recorders and motion activated cameras will be strategically deployed throughout the study area to estimate prey richness/abundance and monitor nest/roost sites.
Fate of animals: All devices will be removed from animals at the termination of the study and the animals released at the site of capture. Cameras and sound recorders will be removed at the termination of the study.

Likely impact on the species involved: The use of call broadcasts and/or detection dogs is not reported to have lasting effects on target species or local communities beyond the study period. Telemetry is common in raptor research/monitoring. Capture and fitting of the devices may be distressful for the animal; however, the effects are reported to resolve shortly after release. The burden to the individuals is not reported to have lasting effects on study populations.​


Scientific Research Permits
Natural Values Conservation Branch
134 Macquarie Street
Hobart TAS 7000

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