Today whilst out in the back blocks of Highfield we had the privilege of meeting one of Highfield's threatened species - the Squirrel glider.
By rights we shouldn't have seen it at all as the Squirrel glider is a nocturnal creature and we were out and about in bright morning sunlight. And, we wished we had seen it in better circumstances... the poor little delicate beast was injured. It lay on the vehicle track and it was only because of The Lad's careful assessment of the ground we were driving over that enabled us to spot it. It was on the ground wiggling and on closer inspection the top inch or so of it's very fluffy tail had been stripped of its fur - that seemed to be it's only injury. We decided that it needed the assistance of a wildlife carer from WIRES or our local group SONA and so we decided to pick it up and ferry it to expert help.
The glider seemed comfortable clutching my t-shirt as if it were hanging on the side of a tree. I put The Lad's hat over it to keep it calm and in the dark as we drove home to raise help. Just as we reached home the little darling gave it's last little shudder - we were too late.
We decided to take the opportunity to take a close look at this beautiful creature. It had incredibly long and soft grey fur with darker stripes over its face and back. The fur on the tail was especially long. It's feet were intricately padded with long fine claws and between it's front and back legs was a fine and flexible webbing that was it's gliding equipment. The glider's tummy was a lighter brown colour and shorter than the fur on the rest of it's body. The glider was a female and while her pouch was thankfully empty, it looked as it it had recently housed and suckled two tiny babies as the pouch was distended and the tiny nipples quite firm. A little comfy brown fur could be seen in her open pouch. She was one of the most delicate little animals I had ever seen, it was so sad that we lost her from Highfield.
We read up a little about Squirrel gliders. They live in old growth Box and Box- Ironbark woodland with an under-story of acacias. This is just the kind of country our conservation area protects. They feed on fruit and flowers, the gum from eucalypts and insects. They nest in tree hollows with another female and a male and, while they start rearing their young in the pouch, after some time the young are left in the nest coming out with mum after some time for nightly Squirrel glider training.
Introduced animals such as dogs, cats and foxes prey on the gliders but they are also predated by large native birds like owls and kookaburras and large lizards like goannas. Whatever animal injured it must have caught it by it's tail and brought it to the ground and then left it, or perhaps we disturbed the predator?
We felt so sad that she probably had two babies and other nest mates that would miss her but we were buoyed that it is our property that provides the right kind of habitat for their continued existence.
Read more about the Squirrel glider here and here.
While I type, as some sort of consolation, another threatened species is building it's nest in the peach tree that is right by the front verandah - a beautiful little bird called a Diamond Firetail - but they might be the subject of another post.