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A Squirrel Glider surprise

Published 16 Apr 2021 by Damon Bassett

I've been itching to find out if there are Squirrel Gliders on Tarcutta Hills Reserve on Wiradjuri country in southern New South Wales since taking up my Field Officer position there around 18 months ago.

With its Grassy White Box Woodlands, Tarcutta is perfect habitat for these beautiful gliding possums. However, Bush Heritage haven’t officially recorded them on the reserve before.

Squirrel Gliders (Petaurus norfolcensis) are very similar to Sugar Gliders (Petaurus breviceps) but are distinguished by their larger size, bushier tails and slightly longer noses.

Nocturnal and omnivorous, they live primarily on insects like caterpillars, beetles and stick insects but also on pollen and nectar from Eucalypt trees.

They’re found across the Great Dividing Range from central Cape York in Queensland south to central Victoria, relying on large swathes of habitat and old-growth, hollow-bearing trees to survive.

Unlike the Sugar Glider, which is still relatively common in many areas, Squirrel Gliders have suffered significant declines and are classed as Vulnerable over much of their range, including in NSW. The local Wagga Wagga population of Squirrel Gliders is further listed as an endangered population.

Land clearing is one of their biggest threats so through an agricultural landscape like the Wagga region, paddock trees are extremely important for allowing the gliders to connect up with remnant habitat like Tarcutta Hills.

With the expert help of Mason Crane, a NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust and Squirrel Glider specialist, we recently set up six motion sensor cameras around Tarcutta Hills Reserve. The cameras were up for one week and when we checked them we found Squirrel Gliders recorded at four of the six sites.

It was an amazing moment as I hadn't expected to find them in so many places across the reserve! This could indicate that the population is established and has perhaps been there for a while.

Our team and Mason will be looking at what we can do to help further protect the population into the future, but for now I am personally satisfied that the Squirrel Gliders are safe and sound on the reserve!

Squirrel Gliders can measure up to 20cm long. They have a longer, more pointed face than their Sugar Glider cousins. This photo was taken on our Scottsdale Reserve by Jiri Lochman.  Squirrel Gliders can measure up to 20cm long. They have a longer, more pointed face than their Sugar Glider cousins. This photo was taken on our Scottsdale Reserve by Jiri Lochman.
One of the camera trap images recently captured on Tarcutta. Spot the very bushy tail that distinguishes Squirrel Gliders from Sugar Gliders. One of the camera trap images recently captured on Tarcutta. Spot the very bushy tail that distinguishes Squirrel Gliders from Sugar Gliders.
We think Tarcutta’s Squirrel Glider population could be healthy and thriving. We think Tarcutta’s Squirrel Glider population could be healthy and thriving.

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