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Dam platypus

July 14, 2019

We’re quite used to seeing platypus in the King Parrot Creek and there have been sightings from there in recent months, even when the creek was reduced to barely connected pools. This included a platypus at Flowerdale which unfortunately had fishing line tightly wound around its body.

But we were a little surprised to get an email from Peter and Terry saying there was a Platypus, Ornithorhynchus anatinus, in their large farm dam (see photo at left), which in fact is more of an ornamental lake in the sizeable garden area surrounding their Strath Creek house.

We were less surprised after reading the following sentence in Mammals of Victoria, edited by Peter Menkhorst: “Wandering individuals, probably mainly dispersing immature animals, are occasionally found crossing dry land up to 2 km from the nearest water body … or in apparently sub-optimal habitats such as irrigation channels and farm dams.” Farm dams for livestock are often less than ideal habitat for platypus because of their depth and bare shallow-sloping hard-packed banks unsuitable for constructing burrows for nesting and shelter. Fenced-off dams with vegetated banks, like the one shown here, encourage the invertebrates that platypus feed on and are generally more suitable habitat.

Whether the platypus came up from the nearby Strath Creek or Wild Dog Creek after they began flowing again following recent rain, or came down from another dam on the property is open to speculation, but it is certainly a long way from any permanently flowing waterway.

One good piece of news regarding platypus is that new rules in Victoria banning the recreational use of opera house traps (and other enclosed yabby trap designs) in all waters came into effect from 1st July this year following a campaign by the Australian Platypus Conservancy. So there should hopefully be no more reports of platypus drowning in these lethal traps.

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