The Squirrel Glider (Petaurus norfolcensis) is one of the many threatened species that inhabits the box-gum woodlands of northern Victoria. It is a larger cousin of the Sugar Glider (P. breviceps) and almost indistinguishable from it to the untrained eye. Perhaps the best feature to distinguish between the species is the fluffiness of the tail – Squirrel Glider tails are very fluffy and about the diameter of the glider’s body.
Whilst Sugar Gliders occur all through the forests and woodlands of the Strathbogies, Squirrel Gliders are restricted to the woodlands and drier forests on the lower slopes and surrounding plains – Seymour, Euroa, Warrenbayne, Swanpool. Curiously Squirrel Gliders appear absent from much of the Goulburn Valley upstream of Trawool.
Because Squirrel Gliders are generally quite active, when out and about at night, and have small eyes with poor eye-shine, they are quite difficult to detect and it’s even even harder to observe their behaviour, as they tend to move quickly through the forest, or freeze in the spotlight. But with thermal imaging, detection is improved enormously and allows extended observation with minimal disturbance to the animal.
Normally, seeing one or two Squirrel Gliders in an evening’s spotlighting is noteworthy. These short videos are of two Squirrel Gliders, out of a total of seven(!), that were detected with thermal imaging, on one evening, in one locality, in three hours of surveying. This relatively new survey technique is proving to be very useful for increasing detection rates of cryptic mammals like gliders.
This field work was conducted as part of a Trust for Nature project into the Squirrel Gliders of the Longwood Plains, supported by the Urquhart Charitable Fund.