Dingoes Under The Spotlight, Toad Busters, And Mother Nature At Her Finest

Winter is in full fling in Australia, but someone forgot to tell Mother Nature. On Fraser Island we’ve been enjoying balmy weather during the day and some crisp, starry nights.  The fruit of the Midjim Berries (Austromyrtus dulcis) have disappeared, but Wide Bay Boronias (Boronia Rivularis) are in bloom and Hervey Bay’s holidaying humpbacks (Megaptera novaeangliae) are breaching off the east and west coasts of Fraser. We’ve even seen them off the end of Kingfisher Bay Resort’s jetty.

The uber-talented Sean Scott captured this stunning image in the skies above Lake McKenzie.
Winter is also a time that dingoes (Canis Lupis Dingo) give birth and protect their young and their territory. We’ll have to wait for September and the start of spring to see pups leaving their den and starting to explore their World Heritage-listed backyard… and although the pups are adorable, please remember to be Dingo Safe on island.

Dingo and son at Fraser Island's Eli Creek.
This month, our island team has welcomed the news that University of Sunshine Coast academics have won two grants to research dingoes and dingo behaviour on island. The University is also involved in a third grant project with the folks at the University of Queensland.

What does this mean?  The more we understand about these animals, the better we can manage them.  One team lead by USC’s Dr Clare Archer-Lean will evaluate the interaction between people and dingoes on the world’s largest sand island with a view to improving current safety messages for visitors.

USC’s Ecological Genetic and Modelling Expert, Dr Gabriel Conroy, will run a pilot project to estimate the number of dingoes on Fraser and monitor population trends.  Rounding out the three, Associate Professor, Jennifer Carter, will collaborate on a University of Queensland research project specifically looking at non-invasive ways of monitoring dingo diet and health.

Look, but don't touch. Pic Air Fraser Is.
DID YOU KNOW that Fraser Island’s dingoes appear lean because they are very active? These crazy critters can travel up to 40km each day on island.  The good news is that Fraser Island’s dingo population is healthy and studies have shown that adult dingoes on island have a higher-than-average body weight that their pure counterparts on mainland Australia.

In our commitment to bring you Fraser Island ‘warts and all’… we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that last month marked 80 years since Entomologist Reginald Mungomery unwittingly unleashed one the of the greatest environmental disasters on Australia.  Back in 1935, Mungomery introduced Cane Toads (Rhinella marina) to control Cane Beetles (Dermolepida albohirtum) and other grubs that were damaging cane crops.

RANGER FACT!  Since the thirties, the toad population in Australia has exploded in leaps and bounds – if you’ll pardon the pun – with an average clutch containing more than 30,000 eggs.

According to the folks at the Fraser Island Defenders Organisation, Cane Toads arrived on Fraser Island on flood debris washed down the Mary River several decades ago. Their appearance coincided with a dramatic reduction in snake numbers, particularly Death Adders (Acanthophis antarcticus).

Check out how toad-busting scientists are waging the war on these villainous pests.

Cane Toads can snatch small vertebrates. Photo: NT News
Four Fast Facts 
(Plus 76 more if you follow this link...)

Prior to 1935, Australia was devoid of toads. Mungomery sourced 102 cane toads – an equal split of males and females - from Hawaii.  It took one week for the toads to start laying eggs, and another three days for the eggs to start hatching. Within weeks they had thousands.

The toads were initially released throughout Tourism North Queensland and it took just 10 years for them to reach Brisbane. The sad fact of the matter is that nobody realised that cane toads couldn't jump very high and couldn't reach the beetles they was supposed to eat - so the invasion has been for nothing.

Toads compete with native species for sheltering sites and food resources, and while feed primarily off insects, will also snatch small vertebrates.   Female cane toads grow to about 12cm in length, with males smaller in size. However, they are among the biggest frog species in the world.

Toad toxin contains both adrenaline and cardotoxic steroids, which means it gets your heart racing in order to deliver its poison shock faster. Key takeaway message - don't lick a cane toad.
(Source: Brisbanetimes.com.au 27/06/15).

Spotted and shared by @noelr70 on Instagram
And in closing, regular Jetty Hut visitors witnessed the cycle of nature in full swing as a young Short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) unwittingly took its life into its own paws when it went for a stroll on Sunset Beach.

It seems the unsuspecting Echidna – whose only natural predators on Fraser are Goannas, Snakes and Dingoes – may have skirted too close to a large Python in its winter curl in the sun.  Whilst onlookers were rooting for the Echidna, who seemed to escape unscathed at the time, neither animal has been seen since.

That’s nature folks.  On Fraser Island, we’re looking forward to sunny September and all the wonderful wildlife that spring brings. This is Ranger J signing off for the last time as I hand the reins over to Ranger Annie.