Lush spring and broad diet keeps release devils thriving at Stony Head
Tasmanian devils released into the wild in spring are faring well, have put on weight and appear to be loving life in and around the coastal military reserve at Stony Head in the state’s north.
Staff with the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program recently wrapped-up six weeks of intensive monitoring of the release site and Program Manager David Pemberton said it’s great to be able to report that all the devils trapped to date appear healthy and many are starting to stabilise in their weight after initially putting on a few kilos.
“They eat such a variety of food – dead or alive- and they really have a broad niche to choose from,” David said. “They do not have much competition in this area, with the exception of the lager birds of prey, so they have had the choice of plenty of food and that’s been reflected in the monitoring results which show they are putting on weight.”
“We know that the devil is a scavenger and they feed on whatever is available. They have really powerful jaws and teeth and this allows them to crunch bones and consume fur and feathers. As a result, their diet is quite varied- they eat wallabies and possums, along with birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects.”
David and two other members of the Program, Phil Wise and Sam Fox, recently co-authored a paper looking at the diet of the Tasmanian devil. You can find more about that research .
The devils released at Stony Head remain on the move and the message to the local community and people travelling through the north is to be aware of devils travelling around in the local landscape.
“The monitoring has shown us that most of the translocated devils are active around the release sites and tracking from the GPS-linked satellite collars worn by many of the devils shows that the animals are also using the area outside of Stony Head for up to 20km from the release sites,” David said.
David said it is pleasing to report that that all but one of the GPS satellite-linked collared devils is accounted for, with the last report from the collar of the missing devil pin-pointed to Weymouth Road on the 12 September.
“Weymouth Road remains a concern in terms of devils crossing and using the road as part of their travels,” David said. “The main message is to continue to keep an eye out for devils and for roadkill. We urge everyone to drive slowly on Weymouth Road and on all roads surrounding the Stony Head site.”
“This is a really important message coming into summer, as more people are out and about on the roads.”
“Every piece of information helps as the Program continues to collect data on the release devils, so please remember to let the Program know if you spot an animal by phoning the Devil Hotline: 0427 733 511.”
There have been six deaths from roadkill at Stony Head, with five occurring soon after the release in late August. This number is much lower than the roadkill deaths reported after previous Wild Devil Recovery releases at Narawntapu National Park and on the Forestier Peninsula.
The Program implemented a range of roadkill mitigation measures for the Stony Head release and is adapting and learning from each Wild Devil Recovery release to alleviate the roadkill toll.
Staff will return to the site next week for more monitoring. At this point, the Program will decide if they should remove the feed-bait stations placed near the original release sites to entice devils to remain within the area.
“It will be interesting to find out how long the devils will keep staying around these sites once the bait is removed", David said.
David says the team has learnt much from the field trips to Stony Head to date and there is more to discover when they start analysing the data from the GPS collars.
“Each translocation provides us with a window of insight into the behaviour of devils and this release has been enhanced by the use of the GPS collars, allowing us to keep a track of where, when and how the devils travel.”
“This has been a very concentrated period of monitoring, with trapping teams rotated in and out of the site on a weekly basis. Our staff have all worked really hard and their enthusiasm has not waned.”
“It has really been worthwhile, and we thank everyone for their support and assistance in keeping an eye out for devils, reporting devil activity, slowing down on the roads and keeping a passionate interest on the welfare of the devils as they adjust to living in the wild.”