Of fire and ferals

Life’s tough when you’re a fox. Bandicoots don’t just sit around waiting for you to catch them. And when you finally sniff one out, all that dense understorey gets in the way of a speedy chase.

But what happens if there’s no understorey in the way? Does the fox’s job become easier? And do things become a lot tougher for bandicoots?

In a land that is increasingly fire-prone, the interactions between predators, fire and native mammals in forest ecosystems is an important knowledge gap for land managers aiming to conserve native fauna. Both planned (or prescribed) fires and wildfires tend to remove a lot of understorey vegetation cover, at least temporarily.

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A fox checks out recently-burnt forest in the Otway Ranges (photo: B. Hradsky)

During my PhD with the Fire Ecology and Biodiversity group at the University of Melbourne, I worked with an Honours student, Craig Mildwaters, and land management agencies, to determine how foxes, feral cats and their native prey responded to a prescribed burn.  Our work was recently published in the Journal of Mammalogy.

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