Dr Brendan Taylor (above) with a glider caught for processing and, below, a female squirrel glider at the Compton Rd bridge.
Dr Brendan Taylor (above) with a glider caught for processing and, below, a female squirrel glider at the Compton Rd bridge. B Taylor R Goldingay

Fake trees for road crossings

ZOOLOGISTS at Southern Cross University have found squirrel gliders, a threatened species, can benefit from power pole-like structures to help them cross roads.

They want more installed.

Dr Brendan Taylor and Dr Ross Goldingay from the School of Environment, Science and Engineering had their findings published in the international journal Restoration Ecology.

Dr Goldingay said using the logic that power poles are basically just dead trees, they have been looking at whether similar-sized wooden poles could assist squirrel gliders to glide over roads.

Their study focused on four dedicated wildlife land-bridges over roads in Tweed and Byron shires and two Brisbane land-bridges - over Compton Rd at Kuraby and Hamilton Rd in Chermside. The Brisbane ones each have eight 7m wooden poles installed for gliding mammals.

"All four land-bridges were covered in vegetation but only the Brisbane land-bridges with the wooden poles were used repeatedly over several years by gliders to move from one side of the road to the other," Dr Goldingay said.

Dr Taylor explained how the poles act as surrogate trees and stepping stones across the road.

"The squirrel glider is a threatened species and one of the biggest concerns is the loss or fragmentation of their habitat. These poles can link habitat that has been severed or fragmented by roads," Dr Taylor said.

"These results are remarkable and important, given that roads not only impact populations of wildlife through road kill but some species show a reluctance or inability to cross the gap in habitat created by the road, thereby isolating populations on either side," Dr Taylor said.

"The great benefit of using poles is that you are not restricted to just installing wildlife crossing structures as new roads are built. You can look more closely at existing roads where population bottlenecks have been created and install poles to reduce the threat of extinction."

Squirrel gliders

Named

because of

their large

bushy tail

Can glide

up to 90m

between trees

Live in

woodland and

open forest

down the

East Coast,

usually around eucalyptus trees.

Will commonly select hollows with tight fitting entrances to prevent entry by potential predators.

In tree hollows they'll make a nest of eucalypt leaves into a rough ball shape.



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