Vic marsupials bounce back from bushfires

Potoroos were attracted with a mixture of peanut butter, golden syrup, oats and truffle oil.
Potoroos were attracted with a mixture of peanut butter, golden syrup, oats and truffle oil.

A threatened Victorian marsupial is rising from the ashes of the Black Summer bushfires.

Environmentalists feared the endangered long-footed potoroo population may not recover after 70 per cent of its Victorian habitat was burned over the devastating 2019/20 fire season.

Long-footed potoroos are among Australia's most threatened marsupials, only found in northeast Victoria, far east Gippsland and southeastern NSW.

To gauge the species' post-bushfire strength, motion-sensing cameras were set up at 120 spots across the Barry Mountains.

The cameras, fixed for 21 days at sites near Dandongadale, Abbeyard, Mount Howitt and Harrietville, detected long-footed potoroos at 35 locations including 12 that were fire-affected.

Elizabeth Wemyss from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) said the footage showed the species was still in the landscape.

"The sightings were encouraging signs that long-footed potoroos are survivors and recovering well after the fires," the DELWP Hume programs officer said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The data will now be used to help us better understand the impacts of fire on long-footed potoroos so we can take important steps to ensure their survival into the future."

Bait stations filled with a mixture of peanut butter, golden syrup, oats and truffle oil were used to lure the marsupials close enough for heat-sensing cameras to capture the rare footage.

Other shy native species including the long-nosed bandicoot, multiple antechinus species and 26 types of bird were also caught on camera.

Bushfires are just one reason behind the decline of long-footed potoroo populations, with introduced predators such as foxes and feral cats, as well as climate change, also taking a toll.

The multi-agency conservation project is part of a $51.5 million Victorian government initiative for on-ground action to help species impacted by last summer's bushfires.

Australian Associated Press