Wombats adapt to gates
MANY farmers call wombats “bulldozers of the bush”, but Tasmanian researchers have found a way of protecting rural fences from the muscular marsupials.
Wildlife biologists from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment surveyed a property on the Tasman Peninsula to determine the success of wombat gates.
They found the gates successfully allowed wombats to pass, but were generally too heavy for other mammals such as pademelons and wallabies.
Senior zoologist Michael Driessen said the gates were successful in safeguarding na- tive wildlife but also in protecting agricultural assets.
“We’ve been trying to promote the use of wombat gates for some time but there hasn’t been the data to show their effectiveness,” Dr Driessen said.
“This clearly shows we have information they can be used by wombats but are capable of restricting other wildlife.”
The research showed wombats adapt to using gates without destruction to fences, but wallabies and pademelons were much less likely to learn, preventing their access to pasture and crops.
The survey involved cameras set up on 17 wombat gates over two weeks at 300ha sheep and cattle farm Swanmoor on the Tasman Peninsula. The cameras showed a total of 1067 wombat visits to the gates and they accounted for 93 per cent of all passes by mammals.
The average number of visits per night by wombats was more than twice the number of visits by pademelons or wallabies and the average number of wombat passes through gates was 14 times greater than pademelons and 37 times greater than Bennetts wallabies.
Farmer Guy Dobner, who made and installed 26 wombat gates on Swanmoor, said he needed a solution to wombats destroying his fences.
“They are not called bulldozers of the bush for nothing,” Mr Dobner said.
Although wombats do not graze too heavily on his paddocks, the fence destruction meant wallabies and pademelons were gaining entry.
“The wallaby population here is a huge problem and it’s getting worse,” he said.
Mr Dobner said wallabyproof fences cost about $9000 per kilometre.
And while he has a soft spot for wombats and his wife is a wombat carer, they were causing an expensive problem.
He said wombats could dig holes under wallaby fences and the wallabies would use those.
But he said the wombat gates had proven a success, and were keeping out 80 per cent of the wallabies. “Wallabies find the gates too heavy and they don’t like pushing with their noses.”
PASSING THROUGH: A wombat on Tasman Peninsula using a gate in a farm fence.