Tasmanian devils, eastern quolls, spotted-tailed quolls and forestry

​Application for Scientific Permit – Available for Public Comment

Public comment on the following application for a Scientific Research (Fauna) Permit  is open until 29 September 2020

Applicant: University of Tasmania

Species/Taxon: Tasmanian devil Sarcophilus harrisii, spotted-tailed quoll Dasyurus maculatus, eastern quoll Dasyurus viverrinus

Location:
Moogara (private land)
Surrey Hills (private land)
Roses Tier (private land)

Title of research: How do devils and quolls respond to forestry production landscapes and operations?

Aim of project: To investigate how Tasmanian devils, spotted-tailed quolls and eastern quolls respond to modified landscapes. The project will evaluate how marsupial carnivore health, behaviour, abundance and distribution is affected by forestry production landscapes and operations. The study will therefore identify how forestry areas could be managed to enhance carnivore conservation. The project will investigate these questions at two scales:
1.    At a forest production landscape scale: determine the effects of production forest features on carnivore distribution and health. Features include stand size and perimeter length, year first harvested or rotation number, proportion of plantation vs native forest and native forest type and burning practices.
2.    At a logging coupe scale: assess how plantation harvesting operations affect devil movements and den use, and devil and quoll health. Analyses of physiological samples for measures of immunology, stress and body condition will be used to create a novel health index for devils and quolls.


Justification:
-    why working on threatened species or on reserved land
It is important to identify the impacts of production forestry on threatened devils and quolls to identify ways these lands could be managed to enhance their conservation.
-    any conservation or management benefits
The results of this research will be used to inform forestry managers on how best to conserve devils and quolls within production forestry landscapes.
-    any benefits to our understanding of Tasmanian ecology or human health
This project will be the first to integrate health and behavioural measures to identify the response of Tasmanian carnivores to human land use.

Maximum likely numbers of individuals involved: We are likely to capture and release up to 100 devils, 50 spotted-tailed quolls, 100 eastern quolls, and 10 feral cats. These are likely maximum numbers based on trapping for other projects.

Activities undertaken and methods:
Live-trapping will be conducted in three landscapes: eucalypt plantation, pine plantation, and native production forest. Biological samples and data will be collected to evaluate health parameters in devils and quolls. Trapping trips are of 10 days duration. 40 culvert pipe traps, baited with meat, are set over a 25 km2 area. Traps are checked daily, commencing early in the morning. Devils and quolls are weighed, measured, and marked with a microchip inserted under the skin on the back of the neck. A biopsy will be taken of ear tissue (once for each individual) and tumour tissue (for devils with DFTD) as well as a blood sample. Disease status, reproductive and body condition are evaluated once per field trip. All animals will be processed and released at the point of capture.

Additionally, eight adult female devils will be captured and fitted with GPS radio-collars in each of two logging coupes in eucalypt plantations eight weeks prior to logging. Collared devils will be monitored for four months after logging. During this time, monthly live-trapping sessions will be undertaken to check collar fit, and to collect the same health data and samples as above to measure their responses to clearfelling in real time. To identify how devil den sites and denning behaviour are affected by clearfelling, collared devils will be VHF-tracked to their dens during the day, prior to logging, to record den location, substrate and habitat features. Dens identified pre-logging will be revisited post-logging to assess their condition. Radio-collars have a biodegradable link, allowing the collar to drop off after a maximum of six months, in the unlikely even that the animal cannot be captured for collar retrieval.

Fate of animals: All animals will be released as soon as the traps are cleared and measurements taken at the point of capture, except for the following:
To conform with the state government policy on the euthanasia of Tasmanian devils captured with advance facial tumour disease, devils that are deemed to be suffering and to not have long to live in the wild, and do not have young in a den (ie, lactating) will be retained. A veterinarian will make the decision whether or not to euthanise the animal.

Likely impact on species involved (including any by-catch):
Impacts are likely to be minimal.

Contact

Scientific Research Permits
Natural and Cultural Heritage
Level 8, 59 Collins Street
Hobart TAS 7000
Email: Scientific.Permits@dpipwe.tas.gov.au

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