So­lu­tion opens

Wom­bats adapt to gates

Tasmanian Country - - NEWS - ANNE MATHER

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.”

Pic­ture: DPIPWE

PASS­ING THROUGH: A wom­bat on Tas­man Penin­sula us­ing a gate in a farm fence.

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