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10 February 2023 Activity and movement of small mammal tick hosts at the urban fringes of Sydney, Australia
Casey L. Taylor, Dieter F. Hochuli, Peter B. Banks
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Context. Small mammals may traverse the urban fringe and use both natural and anthropogenic resources. In Australia, human commensal black rats (Rattus rattus) and native long-nosed bandicoots (Perameles nasuta) are important tick hosts, which can be found persisting at the urban fringe, leading to human–wildlife conflict.

Aims. We aimed to (1) determine the relative activity of small mammals in yards and associations with yard attributes, (2) compare activity of black rats and long-nosed bandicoots in bushland with activity in yards and (3) determine the proportion of black rats and long-nosed bandicoots that crossed the urban fringe. We predicted that native bandicoots would be more active in bushland habitats and that black rats would be more active in yards.

Methods. We used camera trapping in 56 residential yards, 18 of which were paired with adjacent bushland to measure small mammal activity in the two habitats. We recorded yard attributes and examined these associations using generalised linear models. We used isodar analysis to investigate black rat preferences of bushland habitat compared with yards, and we used Rhodamine B baiting to investigate movement at the urban fringe.

Key results. We found that black rats were the most active small mammal in residential yards and were detected in more yards than other small mammals, followed by bandicoots. Black rat activity was greater in yards adjacent to bushland, but no other yard attributes were associated with black rat and bandicoot activity. Overall, activity tended to be higher in bushland than in yards at paired locations.

Conclusions. Our findings suggest residential yards likely provide high-quality resources for long-nosed bandicoots. Low rates of movement at the urban fringe (6%), and a preference for bushland at low densities suggests that black rats may be synanthropic rather than commensal, occupying an urban niche but not depending on anthropogenic resources as expected.

Implications. Residential properties located adjacent to bushland may be exposed to increased black rat activity in yards. Future work should consider how introduced rats may be controlled in bushland to assist urban rat control efforts and avoid non-target impacts. Residential yards are likely to be important habitat for the persistence of long-nosed bandicoots in urban environments.

Casey L. Taylor, Dieter F. Hochuli, and Peter B. Banks "Activity and movement of small mammal tick hosts at the urban fringes of Sydney, Australia," Wildlife Research 50(11), 927-938, (10 February 2023).
Received: 7 April 2022; Accepted: 22 December 2022; Published: 10 February 2023
native wildlife
pest Management
urban ecology
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