The critically endangered smoky mouse has been discovered alive and well in the Kosciuszko national park after it was feared the native species had been wiped from the area during the summer bushfire crisis.
Motion-sensor cameras set up over the last five weeks have recorded images of the mouse at seven burnt-out sites in southern New South Wales.
The NSW Office of Environment set up 58 cameras to monitor wildlife following the Dunns Road fire which devastated the region over the summer.
The sighting of the 50g rodent comes as a relief to conservationists.
It is only found in two sites in NSW – in the Nullica area on the far south coast and in Kosciuszko national park – as well as parts of Victoria and the ACT.
“We are relieved and delighted by this news as we were fearing the worst … as more than 90% of their habitat was burnt,” the NSW environment minister, Matt Kean, said.
“After such a confronting and challenging start to the year, it was a very happy moment to know a native animal already threatened with extinction has survived.”
Over the summer, there was concern for the species amid the bushfire crisis after nine mice – which were being held 50km from the nearest bushfire – died due to smoke inhalation.
The government has established a captive breeding plan under the Save our Species program which has bred 47 mice to maturity in the last four years.
“Future plans are to reintroduce the mice back to the wild to boost the Nullica population which has been dwindling because of predation by feral cats,” Dr Linda Broome said.
“Breeding happens in spring with one or two litters producing up to four young, so we are hoping to have more good news for this unique little mouse.”