Barb Busters Save Squirrel Gliders

L-R Wayne Lavers, Anthony Stemm, Jane Wilson, Marilyn Stemm, Anne Lemon and Kevin Stemm with the barbed wire they removed.
L-R Wayne Lavers, Anthony Stemm, Jane Wilson, Marilyn Stemm, Anne Lemon and Kevin Stemm with the barbed wire they removed.

Young District Landcare recently teamed up with WIRES Weddin-Lachlan Branch to remove barbed wire from internal fences on a Young property.

The property is owned by Jane Wilson, a member of Young District Landcare and WIRES Weddin-Lachlan Branch, where she specialises in the care of gliders and possums.

Some time ago Jane discovered an animal’s tail hanging from a barbed wire fence on her property. The tail was later confirmed to be that of a Squirrel Glider, a nocturnal gliding possum listed as Vulnerable under the NSW Threatened Species Act. It is found throughout the Young district from Tubbul in the west to Koorawatha in the east.

Having rescued a number of Squirrel Gliders from barbed wire fences around the Young district and rehabilitated them back to health, Jane was horrified to think that one had met its demise on her property.

Where there’s one glider there’s likely to be more, as these animals live in family groups. To confirm the presence of others on her place, Jane set up an infrared camera on a large dead standing tree with numerous hollows. These dead trees are commonly referred to as ‘stags’ and are very valuable habitat for native wildlife.

To her delight, when she checked the camera the next day, there was a Squirrel Glider at the entrance to a hollow. The squirrel-like tail was unmistakable.

Squirrel Glider at hollow entrance
Squirrel Glider at hollow entrance

Once she had confirmation of Squirrel Gliders on her property, Jane decided to improve the habitat for them by planting wattles and eucalypts and removing the barbed wire to prevent others getting caught.

So a Barb Busters working bee was organised and over three kilometres of barbed wire was removed from all internal fences within a few hours by a team of enthusiastic volunteers.

L-R Jane Wilson, Anne Lemon and Wayne Lavers 'busting the barb' from the top of an internal fence.
L-R Jane Wilson, Anne Lemon and Wayne Lavers ‘busting the barb’ from the top of an internal fence.
Wayne rolling up the barbed wire that has been removed from the fence
Wayne rolling up the barbed wire that has been removed from the fence

“I feel very happy that there is a much safer environment now for the gliders on my property.” Jane said after the working bee. “The removal of barbed wire and replacement with plain wire will provide adequate containment for the sheep.”

Jane Wilson, Anne Lemon and Mikla Lewis with the first roll of removed barb.
L-R Jane Wilson, Anne Lemon and Mikla Lewis with the first roll of removed barb.

It has been estimated that tens of millions of kilometres of fences now subdivide the Australian landscape, with sixty five percent of these having barbed wire on the top strand.

Each year thousands of native animals face death or injury from entanglement on barbed wire fences. Nobody really knows the extent or how many. Many are removed by the landholder or eaten by foxes, cats and even birds of prey.

More than 75 wildlife species have been identified in Australia as occasional or regular victims of barbed wire fences.

Both mammals (25 species) and birds (50 species) are victims and most are nocturnal.

The Squirrel Glider and its smaller cousin the Sugar Glider are particularly vulnerable. Other mammals such as flying-foxes and insectivorous microbats are also common victims, as are the macropods – wallabies and kangaroos.

Nocturnal birds such as the insectivorous Tawny Frogmouth, as well as owls (some of which are listed as Threatened Species) are particularly vulnerable.

Young District Landcare and WIRES Weddin-Lachlan Branch will continue Barb Busters working bees throughout the cooler months. If you would like to have barbed wire removed from your fences please contact the Young District Landcare Coordinator Mikla Lewis on 0499 199 016 or email youngdistrictlandcare@gmail.com

The barbed wire tally. L-R Mikla Lewis, Anthony, Kevin and Marilyn Stemm, Anne Lemon and Jane Wilson
The barbed wire tally. L-R Mikla Lewis, Anthony, Kevin and Marilyn Stemm, Anne Lemon and Jane Wilson and a lot of barbed wire!

Photographs and article courtesy of Mikla Lewis and Young District Landcare

 

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