2009 Reintroduction to Richard Underwood Nature Refuge

In 2009, four trapping sessions were conducted at Epping Forest National Park to conduct health checks, attach radio collars and to establish a new colony through the reintroduction of wombats to Richard Underwood Nature Refuge.

    M115 processed and collared ready for release Photo: Queensland Government

    M115 processed and collared ready for release Photo: Queensland Government

    A juvenile male is released at his burrow Photo: Queensland Government

    A juvenile male is released at his burrow Photo: Queensland Government

    A pouch young with foot and pouch visible Photo: Queensland Government

    A pouch young with foot and pouch visible Photo: Queensland Government

    Trapping at Epping Forest National Park, 2009

    In 2009, 17 northern hairy-nosed wombats were trapped at Epping Forest National Park. All newly trapped wombats are given a tattoo in their ear and a microchip is implanted in their neck for identification purposes.  Wombats are also given a body condition score out of five as an indicator of general health; one being the poorest condition and five being the most healthy.

    Wombats that were unsuitable for reintroduction to Richard Underwood Nature Refuge were released back at Epping Forest National Park (EFNP). Wombats suitable for reintroduction were fitted with a radio tracking collar before being released back into their burrow at EFNP to allow for wombats to become accustomed to the collar. Radio collars allow a wombat’s movement to be tracked so it can be re-trapped when it comes time to move them to the new colony. Infra-red monitoring cameras were set up to capture images of the collared wombats.

    During the March trapping session, a total of 2 adult males, 2 sub-adult males and 1 adult female were collared for future translocation to Richard Underwood Nature Refuge.

    In April, One of the wombats trapped was M23, that's the 23rd male ever trapped. He was at least 26 years old and the oldest known wild wombat at that time. Given his age, it was decided that he wasn't suitable for the reintroduction and to leave him at Epping.

    The April trapping session saw the addition of 1 sub-adult female and 1 adult male to the previously collared wombats for future translocation to Richard Underwood Nature Refuge.

    During the May trapping session a female wombat (F168) was trapped with a pouch young; that is a baby wombat called a joey. This was only about the fifth pouch young seen in the 35 years that Epping had been a National Park.

    The pouch young was furless; with whiskers developing around its muzzle and two top incisors (teeth) had just emerged. The pouch young was female, as its pouch was visible and it was estimated to be about 12 weeks old.

    Given translocation causes stress to the animals and not wanting to put the lactating mother and pouch young at risk, she was not radio collared and remained at Epping.

    The May trapping session saw one male and one female adult wombat trapped. Due to a low condition score and the presence of pouch young neither wombat was collared for translocation to Richard Underwood Nature Refuge.

    Trapping 2009
    Date trapped Wombat IDAgePreviously trappedCondition (out of 5)Translocated to RUNR
    18/03/2009M108AdultYes4Yes*
    19/03/2009M115AdultNo4Yes*
    23/03/2009F165Sub-adultNo3.5No
    25/03/2009M49AdultYes4No*
    25/03/2009F166AdultNo4.5Yes*
    26/03/2009M116Sub-adultNo3.5No*
    27/03/2009M117Sub-adultNo2.5No
    20/04/2009F167AdultNo4No*
    21/04/2009M23AdultYes3No
    21/04/2009M118Sub-adultNo4No
    21/04/2009M119AdultNo4Yes*
    25/04/2009M120JuvenileNo2.5No
    26/04/2009M121Sub-adultNo3No
    29/04/2009M122Sub-adultNo3.5No
    23/05/2009F168Adult with PYNo3.5No
    24/05/2009M37AdultYes2.5No
    23/07/2009M125AdultNo3.5Yes*

    * Indicates individuals released with radio tracking collars

    DES vet checking the wombat Photo: Queensland Government

    DES vet checking the wombat Photo: Queensland Government

    The release of a northern hairy-nosed wombat at the Richard Underwood Nature Refuge. Photo: Queensland Government.

    M115 being released. Photo: Queensland Government

    The First Move: July 2009

    At Epping Forest National Park, the first of the wombats to be reintroduced to the St George site was trapped around 8pm on 20 July 2009. He was a sub-adult male, M115, and was still in very good condition. After spending a quiet night in a transport crate he departed in the early hours of the morning, on the first wombat flight to St George.

    In St George, after a vet check, the wombat was loaded into a vehicle and transported to Richard Underwood Nature Refuge. Within 10 minutes of arriving at the Nature Refuge, wombat M115 was released into a burrow.

    Once his front paws were on the ground, he appeared calm and quickly entered the burrow, disappearing from sight. The burrow was plugged with a plastic barrel equipped with an infrared camera to monitor what was happening in the burrow. The barrel was removed at sunset and the wombat was free to explore the Nature Refuge for the first time.

    Over the days that followed, a total of 5 wombats were trapped and successfully reintroduced to Richard Underwood Nature Refuge within 24 hours of capture.

    The newly reintroduced colony of wombats at Richard Underwood Nature Refuge was monitored daily using infrared cameras. Feed and water stations and burrows were checked regularly for prints and dung as indicators of activity. The wombats began renovating the starter burrows that had been created for them and also started digging their own ‘test’ burrows.

    Collared animals were intensively radio tracked to monitor their location and movements within the enclosure. More details about the monitoring techniques used can be found on the design and methods page.