Someone in high-vis clothing installs one of the motion-sensor cameras on a tree in a forest.

Wildlife researchers on the hunt for the elusive long-footed potoroo in north-eastern Victoria are hoping motion-sensor cameras will indicate how last summer’s bushfires have affected the endangered species.

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning biodiversity officer Elizabeth Wemyss said over time bushfires, climate change and introduced predators had taken a toll on the marsupial in the wild.

“These guys are like needles in the haystack,” she said.

The marsupials can only be found in pockets of north-east Victoria, far-east Gippsland and south-east New South Wales but authorities fear their habitat may have been further reduced by the bushfires earlier this year.

Eight people spent five days installing 120 motion-sensor cameras in the Ovens Valley.(Supplied: DELWP Hume)

‘Months of preparation’

Over the next three weeks, 120 motion-sensor cameras set up in the Ovens Valley will attempt to record potoroo activity.

Bait stations filled with peanut butter, golden syrup, oats and truffle oil will be put near the cameras to attract the marsupials.

Ms Wemyss said she was hoping the cameras would capture “heaps of them”.

“For us to go out on the field trip for five days, there was months of preparation of deciding where to put the cameras, buying the cameras, setting the cameras up,” she said.

“They’re triggered by heat or movement and then an infrared flash takes a photo so it doesn’t startle the animal.

“But if you haven’t cleared enough vegetation around the camera, one bit of moving grass might trigger it 100,000 times so the camera is going to run out of batteries.”

A woman sorts through dozens of cameras on a table with forest in the background.
DELWP worked with the Taungurung Land and Waters Corporation and Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research on this project.(Supplied: DELWP Hume.)

Most people ‘don’t seem to know’

Ms Wemyss said the plight of the long-footed potoroo was not widely known.

“Everyone seems to know about pandas and tigers and how endangered they are and how special they are,” she said.

The Victorian Government allocated $22.5 million to the Bushfire Biodiversity Response and Recovery Program, which is funding this project, after reporting 170 rare or threatened species in the state had lost more than 50 per cent of their habitats due to the bushfires.

“It’s really important that we get out and do these projects because we’re filling in those information gaps that we just don’t know about,” Ms Wemyss said.

“We can then put that information into more research and management actions to better look after these species now and into the future.”

The department is working with the Taungurung Land and Waters Corporation and Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research on the project.

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