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Exciting find at Fowlers Gap

Thursday, 31st March, 2016

The native big-eared mouse that was thought to be extinct but was discovered at Fowlers Gap. The native big-eared mouse that was thought to be extinct but was discovered at Fowlers Gap.

A big-eared mouse thought to be extinct has been found at the Fowlers Gap Arid Zone Research Station, north of the city.

A young female of the species Pseudomys australis - commonly known as the plains mouse - was caught by University of NSW scientists looking for small mammals on the property, which is the only research station in the arid zone of NSW.

The species was thought to be extinct in NSW for 80 years but they caught it in  a pit fall trap at the station.  

It was measured, photographed and then released.  

A mouse was caught last year at the station but was not confirmed as a plains mouse, but this year’s catch proves that they do exist here and it has been identified by a small mammals expert, Dr Mike Letnic.

“It was very exciting to come across an animal we thought had gone for good in this State,” said UNSW biologist Dr Keith Leggett, who found the mouse with his honours student, Thanuri Welaratne.

“NSW has a dreadful record of extinction of native mammals, and the reappearance of the plains mouse shows the benefit of carefully maintaining the conservation areas we have at Fowlers Gap,” Dr Leggett said.

The identity of the native mammal was confirmed by other scientists, including UNSW biologist Associate Professor Mike Letnic, who has caught them in the South Australian desert where they still occur in small numbers.

“The plains mouse is quite distinctive looking,” said Dr Letnic.

“It is one of the largest rodents in the arid zone and has relatively big ears and big feet.”

Fowlers Gap is used by scientists from UNSW and other local and international institutions for a wide range of studies on birds, kangaroos, reptiles, other flora and fauna, soil conservation and ground water management.

Some areas of the 39,000-hectare property have been continuously monitored for 50 years, providing a unique ecological record that earned the station a place on the Register of the National Estate in 1996.

Artists are also attracted to the dramatic landscape at the station, which has several artists’ retreats.

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