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Dispersal patterns in a regional koala population in south-east Queensland

David S. Dique, Jim Thompson, Harriet I Preece, Deidre L. de Villiers and Frank N. Carrick

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, PO Box 64, Bellbowrie, Qld 4070, Australia.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, PO Box 155, Brisbane Albert Street, Qld 4002, Australia.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, PO Box 5116, Daisy Hill, Qld 4127, Australia.
Koala Study Program, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia.

 

Abstract. Koala dispersal was investigated as part of a detailed ecological study of a nationally significant koala population located 20 km south-east of Brisbane, Queensland. From 1996 to 2000, 195 koalas from three sites were captured and fitted with radio-collars. A total of 40 koalas (23 males and 17 females) dispersed from these sites. Most (93%) dispersing individuals were 20-36 months of age. Three adult females (more than 36 months old) dispersed and no adult males dispersed during the study. A significantly higher proportion of young males dispersed than females. Dispersal occurred between June and December, with most dispersal of males commencing in July and August and that of females commencing between September and November prior to, and early in, the annual breeding season. The mean straight-line distance between the natal and breeding home ranges for males and females was similar and was measured at 3.5 km (range 1.1-9.7 km) and 3.4 km (range 0.3-10.6 km) respectively. Dispersing males and females tended to successfully disperse south and west of their natal home ranges and were generally unable to successfully disperse to urban areas within the study area, as a high proportion of the mortality of dispersing koalas was associated with attacks by domestic dogs and with collisions with vehicles on roads. Information from other studies indicates that most young koalas disperse from their natal areas. It is likely that the social behaviour and mating systems of koala populations provide mechanisms for young koalas to disperse. The potential role of dispersal in the dynamics of regional koala populations is discussed.