Scats used to find what was on the menu

Graeme Finlayson
Published 27 Apr 2020 
about  Bon Bon Station Reserve  

The Desert short-tailed mouse is known to live on Bon Bon Station Reserve, its remains having recently been discovered in fox scats.<br/> The Desert short-tailed mouse is known to live on Bon Bon Station Reserve, its remains having recently been discovered in fox scats.
Percentage of fox scats in which each dietary item was detected on Bon Bon Station in late 2019.<br/> Percentage of fox scats in which each dietary item was detected on Bon Bon Station in late 2019.

The link between fox scats and rare animals might seem a long bow, but at one arid lands property, one is being used to track another.

Eleven fox scats collected on Bon Bon Station Reserve by our South Australian Arid Rangelands Ecologist Graeme Finlayson late last year were sent away for analysis to get a better picture of what is on the menu at the reserve.

“By looking at what these predators are eating, we can figure out what we're trying to protect by controlling these highly destructive, introduced predators,” Graeme said.

“The information can also provide crucial records of native animals that are often difficult to detect in this type of landscape.

“It's just a small part of the large conservation program being conducted at Bon Bon looking at biodiversity in the rangelands with a major focus on the interaction between native species and introduced predators that have been implicated with the decline and extinction of so many native species across Australia.”

Despite having previously undertaken annual pitfall surveys, this ‘old-school’ style of analysis has uncovered a hidden truth about the native animals on Bon Bon, even finding traces of a small mammal that has not been recorded during the annual trapping surveys conducted on the property for the past three years.

Forrest’s Mouse (Leggadina forresti) is a small native mouse with a short tail and thick, short, coarse light grey to yellowish brown fur with darker hairs above and white below. It has relatively small ears and eyes and a short, broad muzzle.

It is sparsely distributed across arid and semi-arid inland Australia. Traces of it were found in the scats, despite not having been seen on the property for more than three years.

Other interesting traces found in the scats belonged to a native rodent, Bolam’s Mouse (Pseudomys bolami), and possibly two species of Dunnarts, which are small carnivorous marsupials. Bolam’s Mice and three species of Dunnarts (Stripe-faced, Fat-tailed and Ooldea) are all trapped during the annual pitfall trapping on Bon Bon.

Reptile traces found in the scats included Blue Tongues, Bearded Dragons, Skinks, Goannas, and other dragons. Arthropods (or invertebrates) included centipedes, moths, grasshoppers and beetles.

The scat analysis was completed by Georgeanna Story from Scats About. This article was originally published in the South Australia government’s Across the Outback magazine.

Percentage of fox scats in which each dietary item was detected on Bon Bon Station in late 2019.<br/> Percentage of fox scats in which each dietary item was detected on Bon Bon Station in late 2019.