Bringing Back Native Mice
The New Holland Mouse (Pseudomys novaehollandiae) was released to the Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary in 2013 after a 100 year absence from the region. The species is common in collections of historically-aged bones in caves in the Canberra region, and was probably a common component of local forest, woodland and heath communities.
The previous role of the New Holland Mouse in woodland ecosystems is unknown because modern populations in woodlands occur at such low densities they have not really been studied. However, like all small mammals, it likely plays a very important role in the ecosystem in transferring fungi and seeds of plants, turning over the soil, and as a prey item for larger animals (e.g. curlews, quolls, birds of prey).
How is the reintroduction going?
The New Holland Mouse is being reintroduced experimentally to Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary. We are still in the establishment phase of the reintroduction.
If the population grows, it could be expected to pass through the fence to repopulate nearby areas where predators are low. New Holland Mice do not adapt to urban environments; the species is present adjacent to Sydney suburbs but does not enter the houses.
The reintroduction process was a joint project of several organisations, mice were caught from the NSW central coast under NSW licences in 2010, a captive population was developed at Priam Australia Pty Ltd at Bungendore before the release into Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary.
The research program is examining factors affecting the success of mice following introduction to an environment that has not been occupied by the species for over a hundred years. This will help inform a conundrum faced by modern conservation – can individuals of a species sourced from far-afield, bred in captivity, and then released into the wild, cope with a habitat that has been highly modified from the former woodland ecosystem they were once part of? We will keep you posted on that one…