Pseudomys fumeus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Rodentia Muridae

Scientific Name: Pseudomys fumeus Brazenor, 1934
Common Name(s):
English Smoky Mouse
French Fausse Souris Fuligineuse
Spanish Raton Bastardo Fumoso

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2bce ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-07-26
Assessor(s): Woinarski, J. & Burbidge, A.A.
Reviewer(s): Amori, G.
Contributor(s): Aplin, K., Menkhorst, P., Dickman, C. & Lunney, D.
Although this species is undergoing some continuing decline and probably has a small population size, it does not fit any criteria comfortably. Assignment here to VU A2bce is based on an interpretation that decline over the last 10 years has been at least 30%. Although the supporting evidence base is thin, this is plausible given recent extensive fires (that reduce habitat suitability) across much of range, ongoing impacts of introduced predators, and recent failures to record the species from some sites where it was present in the 1980s.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is endemic to Australia, where it has an unusual patchwork distribution in south-eastern mainland Australia, with its current range likely to be highly residual following extensive decline and loss of many subpopulations. Fossil and sub-fossil evidence suggests that it formerly had a much wider range, and has declined since the Pleistocene, with decline continuing (or accelerating) since European settlement (Menkhorst 1995, Bilney et al. 2010).

Its current range is poorly resolved, in part because of difficulty of detection, especially when at low abundance, and the likelihood that many subpopulations known to exist within the last few decades may have subsequently disappeared. Menkhorst (2003) noted ‘a characteristic of Smoky Mouse colonies is their ephemeral nature, both spatially and temporally. There are numerous examples of unsuccessful attempts to locate the species at sites where it had been found only a few months previously and where there were no obvious changes to habitat quality’. 

Since about the 1980s, it has been recorded in a small set of disjunct areas: the Grampians, the coastal slopes of the Otway Ranges, coastal and near-coastal East Gippsland and nearby far south-eastern New South Wales, and a series of isolated sites along the Great Dividing Range the upper Yarra River catchment to the Brindabella Ranges. Recent surveys in the Eastern Highlands of Victoria between the upper Yarra River and the Thompson Dam using remote cameras have detected the species at a higher than expected proportion of sites (Nelson et al. 2009, P. Menkhorst pers. comm). However, it has not been recorded in the Otway Ranges since 1985, nor from the two Australian Capital Territory sites since 1987, nor from coastal East Gippsland since 1990 (Menkhorst and Seebeck 1981, Menkhorst 2003, Menkhorst and Broome 2006, Menkhorst et al. 2008).

Countries occurrence:
Australia (New South Wales, Victoria)
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:144-50000,10000Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:30000-100000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):YesExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:5-20Continuing decline in number of locations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Upper elevation limit (metres):1800
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Menkhorst and Broome (2006) noted that ‘there are no data on which to base population estimates or to estimate trends, but some studied populations have clearly declined’. Menkhorst et al. (2008) considered that there were fewer than 2,500 mature individuals, and no subpopulation contained more than 250 mature individuals, but the assessment of population size is likely to be a substantial under-estimate, given recent results from remote camera studies in the Eastern Highlands (P. Menkhorst pers. comm. in Woinarski et al. 2014).

Far larger populations were evident at some sites in recent decades, notably at Mt William in the Grampians where Cockburn (1981a) reported 701 captures from 9,600 trap-nights at two grids totalling about six hectares, over the period 1976 to 1979. However, this abundance was not typical of other sites, and the species has declined substantially at Mt William since (Menkhorst 1995, Nelson et al. 2009). Based partly on declines reported from monitoring programs in the Grampians, Eastern Highlands and Eden hinterland, and recent failures to detect the species in the Otway Ranges, coastal East Gippsland and the Australian Capital Territory, IUCN (Menkhorst et al. 2008) considered the population was declining.

Recent surveys have had relatively high detection rates in the Grampians and Eastern Highlands, partly, but not only, because of the introduction of a new survey technique (Nelson et al. 2009). Deployment of camera traps in coastal East Gippsland failed to detect the species.

There is some monitoring of populations of Smoky Mouse (Menkhorst and Broome 2006), but most monitored populations have disappeared. Some sites in the Grampians have been sampled intermittently since the late 1970s (Cockburn 1981a,b; Homan 2008; Nelson et al. 2009).

Evidence from owl pellets suggests that historically this was an abundant species.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:5000-50000, 10000Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:10-100Continuing decline in subpopulations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The Smoky Mouse is a terrestrial nocturnal rodent. It occurs in a range of habitats including heathy woodlands, coastal heathlands, subalpine heathlands, subalpine woodlands, dry Eucalypt forests (especially on ridge tops with heathy understoreys) and fern gullies in wet forests (Menkhorst 1995, Ford et al. 2003). The preferred habitat for Smoky Mouse (and the abundance of its food resources) is affected by fire: too frequent fire will eliminate the heathy species whose seeds are a critical component of the diet, and also reduce the abundance of underground fungi, and long fire-free intervals may cause senescence in heathland plants. A preferred fire regime for Smoky Mouse probably involves small-scale fires and mosaic burns at 15-20 but up to 40-year intervals (Menkhorst 2003, Menkhorst and Broome 2006). It has been demonstrated that the species can persist through drought and fire and that fire refuges may be important in such local persistence (Burns et al. 2016).

Its diet includes seeds, berries, underground fungi, flowers, and some invertebrates (Menkhorst 1995, Ford 2008), with composition showing marked seasonal variation, with fungi eaten in winter, and seeds and invertebrates (especially Bogong Moths (Agrotis infusa) in summer (Cockburn 1981a, Ford et al. 2003), with potential resource bottlenecks between these periods (Cockburn 1981a).

Breeding is seasonal, with females producing 1-2 litters of 3-4 young per year, and most births in the period October to January (Cockburn 1981b, Menkhorst 1995). Breeding may be communal, with several females cohabiting in burrows (Woods and Ford 2000, Ford et al. 2003). The population shows a marked annual variation, with severe decline before the breeding season (Cockburn 1981b). Males and females breed in their first year, and many survive to breed in a second year (Cockburn 1981b), so generation length is taken to be 1-2 years.
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):1-2
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The Smoky Mouse is not utilized.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species appears to have declined rapidly in abundance since European settlement of Australia. Threats include changes in the floristic composition of shrub and ground vegetation due to inappropriate fire regimes and possibly the introduced root-rot fungus (Phytophthora cinnamomi) which affects many plant species characteristic of its habitat. The species is significantly preyed upon by introduced Red Foxes (Vulpes vulpes), wild dogs (Canis lupus dingo), and feral Domestic Cats (Felis catus). Feral cats in particular have the ability to sit and wait outside burrow entrances and deplete colonies very quickly. Loss and fragmentation of habitat due to land clearing and timber harvesting may contribute to local declines (L. Broome pers. comm).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Most sites at which Smoky Mouse has been reported are now in conservation reserves (Menkhorst 2003), including the Grampians, Alpine, Croajingalong, Namadgi, Kosciuszko, and South East Forests National Parks. Populations also occur in timber production forests. In areas subject to forestry activity, exclusion zones have been established around known sites (Menkhorst and Broome 2006).

Many of the actions in a recovery plan (Menkhorst and Broome 2005) for the species have been implemented. There has been an ongoing program of survey and research directed at this species over recent decades, and some management targeted broadly for this species, including some extensive predator control and fire management programs (Menkhorst 2003, Robley et al. 2009). Long-term monitoring protocols have been devised (Burns et al. 2016).

Citation: Woinarski, J. & Burbidge, A.A. 2016. Pseudomys fumeus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T18550A22398566. . Downloaded on 25 September 2018.
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