Wildlife researchers from Charles Sturt University have reported the native Australian smoky mouse, named smoky because of its colour, as the first animal to die due to inhaling south-east Australia’s hazardous bushfire smoke from an area outside of the fire burn zones.
The researchers found nine Australian smoky mice held at the Priam Psittaculture Centre’s captive breeding facility near Canberra died due to smoke inhalation in January this year, even though the nearest fires were more than 20 kilometres away.
The researchers submitted their findings in a report to the Journal of Wildlife Diseases, which is the first scientific report of bushfire smoke causing wildlife deaths away from the burn zones.
Dr Andrews Peters, one of the researchers involved in the smoky mice study, said the mice started to die days after hazardous bushfire smoke emerged.
“The smoky mice that died developed severe lung disease, with large amounts of microscopic particles matching the deadly PM2.5 known to be produced by bushfire smoke,” Dr Peters said.
“This disease took some time to develop, with mice starting to die only three days after the first wave of extremely hazardous smoke rolled over the southern tablelands of NSW and the ACT on New Year’s Day.
“There were other smoky mice that hung on despite their sickness, and it was only when temperatures spiked over 40 degrees that they were under enough stress to die from respiratory failure.”
Dr Peters said the deaths of these smoky mice present major concerns for the bushfire conservation interventions happening right now.
“It is rare to find out exactly how most wildlife die or get injured from large bushfires,” Dr Peters said.
“Now that we know that bushfire smoke can kill wildlife at large distances from the fires, it is possible wildlife have been impacted across far greater areas of Australia than previously thought.”
This article was sourced from the Charles Sturt University website.