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26 February 2014 Does artificial light influence the activity of vertebrates beneath rural buildings?
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Interactions between humans and wildlife have increased dramatically over the past century as human populations increase and occupy areas formerly dominated by native animals. In Australia, increases in land clearing and farming close to riparian areas has brought humans into contact with the common wombat (Vombatus ursinus), a relatively large-bodied, semifossorial marsupial. The common wombat is regarded as a pest in some agricultural areas due to its habit of burrowing beneath buildings, destroying fences and destabilising stream banks. We examined the effectiveness of artificial lighting to deter wombats from using the subfloor cavity under an historic cottage at ‘Bundanon’ in southern New South Wales, Australia. The response of wombats to artificial light (10 weeks on followed by 10 weeks off) was assessed using heat- and motion-sensing cameras continuously over a period of 58 weeks. While the main focus was on light effects on wombats, the study also allowed us to record non-nuisance animals using the subfloor cavity. Of the total of 1086 animal detections over the 58-week period (2.67 detections day–1), 965 (89%) were of mammals, 106 birds and 15 reptiles. Wombats (622; 57%) and kangaroos (228; 22%) made up 79% of all detections. Nocturnal activity of wombats remained unchanged in response to lighting (on: 266; off: 268), but there were significantly more diurnal detections when the lights were on (58) than off (30). For kangaroos, there were more nocturnal detections when lights were off, but more diurnal detections when lights were on. More antechinus were detected at night (night: 107; day: 8), and with the lights off (99 cf. 8), and insectivorous birds were detected almost entirely during the day, mostly with the lights on (66 cf. 39). Our study showed that, overall, the lighting regime we used was ineffective at reducing wombat activity under the building.

© CSIRO 2013
Philip Borchard and David J. Eldridge "Does artificial light influence the activity of vertebrates beneath rural buildings?," Australian Journal of Zoology 61(6), 424-429, (26 February 2014).
Received: 13 August 2013; Accepted: 1 February 2014; Published: 26 February 2014

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