Native Bush Rats reclaiming North Head
March 2016: Recent surveys at North Head Wildlife Sanctuary in Sydney have revealed the population of native Bush Rats reintroduced by AWC is steadily increasing. The continued success of the project strengthens the foothold of the native rats in the sanctuary, where they face intense competition from feral Black Rats.
Rebuilding the native Bush Rat population
Working in partnership with the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, AWC’s research and management program at North Head helps protect the largest remaining tract of endangered Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub, along with a threatened population of Long-nosed Bandicoots.
The reintroduction of Bush Rats, which had disappeared from North Head, is part of a strategy to restore the native mammal fauna of the area. Bush Rats maintain individual territories, and it is hoped that as the population becomes established, they will be able to compete with, and exclude, their feral cousins. 73 Bush Rats were released in 2014, followed by a second introduction of 54 in late 2015.
The results from the most recent round of surveys are promising. Trapping was carried out at two sites in February and March. Some of the rats captured were from the initial release, but the vast majority were new individuals born on North Head. What’s more, roughly half of the rats were detected for the first time in this trapping session. This is a sign that the population is increasing, and the capture of several juveniles and pregnant females shows that successful breeding and recruitment is continuing.
Bush Rats are being caught at more and more sites across the headland, which suggests they are starting to disperse as the population grows.
By contrast, the ongoing removal of feral Black Rats has led to a reduction in their numbers at survey sites. In the recent round of surveys, Bush Rats outnumbered Black Rats at all trapping sites.
The ongoing success of the Bush Rat reintroduction at North Head is an example of AWC’s practical, science-based approach to conservation, right on Sydney’s doorstep.