BY ROBERT CLOSE
07 Mar, 2012 01:00 AM
ONLY two calls have come in to the koala pager in the past 10 days: one from near the Ruse Tavern on Junction Road and the other from Hodgson Close, Wedderburn.
We were unable to organise a catching team for the Ruse koala, so confidently expected a call the following day after the koala had left the pub.
It would have been heading for, or coming from, the Smiths Creek Reserve probably via Nymboida Crescent which follows two creek lines that connect with Smiths Creek.
If it was heading for Smiths Creek, it would have come via Acacia Avenue, Oberon Road or Old Kent Road from the corridor comprised of James Ruse Park and Cook Reserve.
After the initial sighting near the pub, however, the koala seems to have vanished; presumably it crossed Junction Road to the relative safety of Smiths Creek.
Two months previously we had rescued a young male, Matt, from a dog-filled backyard in Bellingen Road which connects with Nymboida Crescent.
We took Matt down to Tarlo River National Park and fitted him with a satellite radio collar which allows us to follow his movements without actually finding him physically.
However, we still track him each month in person.
Matt’s movements have been astounding. First, he left the young female Katie with whom he had been released and moved 14 kilometres north through extremely rugged country then turned around and in one month returned almost to where we had originally released him. He has travelled a distance of 28 kilometres as the crow flies in just 50 days!
Has he been merely exploring the district? Perhaps he’s been checking for the presence of females. Katie may already have a joey in the pouch and therefore of little interest to Matt.
Or maybe resident males may have left subtle scent messages rubbed onto the bases of trees from the oily scent glands on their chests.
These messages may have warned Matt to keep moving. If so why did he come back and how did he navigate? Perhaps he used his own scent gland to mark a trail that he could follow back to Katie.
All these questions show how little we know about how koalas use the landscape and how they communicate with each other.
Report koala sightings on the UWS pager, 9962 9996.