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mangrove challenge


Photo of a water mouse
Like the Cane Toad, the fox is an introduced pest.
Photo: Gary Cranitch, QM

Photo of a water mouse
Fox paw prints in mud in Water Mouse habitat.
Photo: QM

The Water Mouse has few natural predators, although carpet snakes have been found lying across Rhizophora prop roots, and Tawny Frogmouths, predatory native owls, from nearby woodland habitats often survey mangroves for food. Analysis of the stomach contents of Saltwater Crocodiles from the Northern Territory has shown that they occasionally eat the Water Mouse. Queensland Museum scientists studying the Water Mouse have seen foxes, Vulpes vulpes, in its mangrove habitats in south-east Queensland.

The fox is a much larger predator than most native carnivores. Along with cats, dingoes and rabbits, foxes have caused great environmental and economic damage in Australia. Foxes from England were introduced to the state of Victoria in the 1860s and 1870s for the sport of fox hunting, and as early as 1893 had become a nuisance to farmers. Foxes now live in most parts of Australia, including cities, and have a varied diet of fruits and insects in summer and small mammals and carrion, or dead remains, in winter. They are usually nocturnal, hunting at night and resting by day in dens, or burrows, in dense bushes or in logs.

Predation by foxes has contributed to the severe decline in populations of now endangered small mammals and ground-dwelling birds such as the Greater Bilby, the Bridled Nailtail Wallaby and the Ground Parrot. Classified as a key threatening process to biodiversity in 1999, foxes must be controlled by baiting and fencing. With foxes now found in the mangroves of south-east Queensland, the future of Water Mouse populations becomes more uncertain there.

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