How do you attract a yellow-bellied glider? Play the call of the powerful owl, particularly in East Gippsland.  Ironically, powerful owls like to eat yellow-bellied gliders. But observers searching for the gliders during forest protection surveys find the predator’s call still seems to draw them in.

Found in eastern Australia, from the Mt Windsor tablelands north-west of Cairns to the Victorian-South Australian border, these nocturnal, forest-dwelling marsupials with yellow bellies and long fluffy tails are known for their rather startling shrieking, gurgling call.

They can glide up to 140 metres, thanks to a membrane, which stretches from their wrists to their ankles. However, flights of around 40 metres are more typical. Not bad for an animal only 70cm long on average, including its 40cm tail. Wildlife ecologist, Dr Jenny Nelson from DELWP’s Arthur Rylah Institute, says, ‘They are active most of the night and spend about 90% of the time outside their dens gliding around searching for food in their home range, which can be 30-60 hectares in area. They cover a lot of territory – up to 2kms in one night and usually live in family groups of up to six consisting of parents and the kids.’

Surveyors find yellow-bellied gliders using the ‘spotlighting’ and ‘call playback’ methods.  

The spotlight surveys involve two observers working 100 to 200 metres apart walking along carefully selected routes through the bush listening for animals calling and using spotlights to search the forest for gliders.

If the spotlighting fails to detect any yellow-bellied gliders, then a recording of their call is played. “They’re territorial, and when they hear the recorded calls of other yellow-bellied gliders, members of the family group will often come to investigate the intruder on their patch” Jenny says.

Call playback also involves playing recorded powerful owl calls, careful listening for owls calling back and spotlighting nearby trees to see if any have responded. Jamie Molloy from the Forest Protection Survey Program says, “Often when we play the call of the powerful owl we hear the unique yellow-bellied gliders call in response.”  

Yellow-bellied gliders are protected in East Gippsland. If a certain number are spotted during a forest protection survey in the region, 100 hectares of yellow-bellied glider habitat is protected from timber harvesting.

The Forest Protection Survey Program is one of the tools we use to gather better data on threatened species in and around forest coupes. When threatened species are detected in areas scheduled for timber harvesting, steps are taken to protect both the species and their habitat. The survey program is part of the Office of the Conservation Regulator’s work to protect Victoria’s flora and fauna in areas of timber harvesting.

The program is an important part of the Victorian Government’s forest reforms, which also include modernising the state’s Regional Forest Agreements, improving legislation governing state forests and creating the Office of the Conservation Regulator.

Page last updated: 21/10/19

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