Helping Phascogales on the Edge

DRB Nats 12th August 2022

The guest speaker for the August Meeting was Mick Davies, a well-known local conservationist and leader talking about his encounter with Phascogales. A proven environmental project manager and communicator, he uses his extensive ecological knowledge, excellent project management skills and proven community engagement experience to deliver high-quality environmental projects for the community. He is known for achieving regional, national and global conservation outcomes that contribute to improved sustainability and community outcomes. Mick shared that he had been driving in the Pickering Brook area when he spotted a shape lying by the roadside. Naturally, he checked in case it was a female with a young pouch. It was a male Brush-tailed Phascogale. This finding set him on the track to learning more about this shy marsupial.

The Phascogales (members of the eponymous genus Phascogale), also known as mousesacks, are carnivorous Australian marsupials of the family Dasyuridae. Brush-tailed Phascogales, Phascogale tapoatafa wambenger (southwestern) and Phascogale tapoatafa kimberleyensis (Kimberley), have predominantly grey fur with a cream-coloured belly. Growing up to 30cm long, nearly half of their length is taken up by the black, brush-like tail for which they are named. In the southwest, Brush-tailed Phascogales are found in Jarrah forests. In the Kimberley, they are found in woodlands and grasslands with Eucalyptus and Corymbia trees. There are also rarer Red-tailed Phascogales (Phascogale calura) in the wheatbelt living on Sheoak and Wandoo trees.

Mick applied for a grant to preserve the creature and brought along a taxidermized specimen of the same Phascogale he found portrayed in the downward-looking aspect on a tree trunk. The specimen shows dark grey fur with a creamy white belly, a large, black eye and a pointed face. As their name explains, they have a long black, bushy tail. You could see the long claws that allowed them to grip onto the bark. His talk included sharing known facts about their habits and mating experiences where the males live only a year, exhausted from their efforts to impregnate as many female phascogales as possible. The females use holes in trees to raise their young and are rarely seen in the winter months as they raise the next generation. They are very good hunters eating large insects and spiders, and can even be known to eat small mammals and smaller birds. They spend the daytime inside tree hollows. Mothers will leave their young in a nest inside the hollow at night while looking for food./

Since the talk, one has been spotted in Jorgensen Park Area in Kalamunda.

Arlene Quinn