Woylies benefitting from increased fox management

Evidence that populations of the critically endangered woylie (Bettongia penicillata) are making a comeback in Batalling State Forest near Collie highlights the importance of feral predator management.

Western Shield, the lead wildlife recovery program at the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, closely monitors populations of native species in targeted bushland areas.

Western Shield zoologist Dr Michelle Drew said that in 2023 a substantial increase in the number of woylies at Batalling was noted, with 34 individuals captured, compared with 19 in 2022, and just two in 2019.

“All but two of the animals hadn’t previously been recorded, and every female captured had pouch young. This is a positive sign for further population growth,” she said.

The woylie’s survival rate has been bolstered in the Batalling area due in part to an increase in fox management in the past two years, made possible by funding from the Alcoa Foundation. In a first for the area, the funding has also enabled the integration of Eradicat®, a feral cat-specific product, into the management program.

Increased management appears to have also improved the outcomes for the vulnerable chuditch (Dasyurus geoffroii) with nine individuals captured during the 2023 monitoring, five of which had not been trapped previously.

In a comparable area of forest just a few kilometres away where introduced predators are not managed, no woylies were recorded and only two chuditch were captured during the same season.