Wildlife Surveys in Tasmania

​​​​​​​Wildlife monitoring is an integral part of a wildlife management and conservation that informs managers of the success or otherwise of their programs. 

Sixteen species (80%) of the 20 species of wildlife subjected to either harvesting or culling in Tasmania are monitored and the results used to ensure that they are being managed sustainably.

​Annual State-wide​​ Spotlight Survey​​


Wildlife monitoring is an integral part of wildlife management and conservation.  

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (NRE Tas) started spotlight surveys in 1975 to monitor population trends in harvested species (principally Brush-tailed Possum, Tasmanian Pademelon and Bennett's Wallaby). All observations of wild native nad non-native species are recorded and that means these surveys also collect valuable data on co-occuring species. 

Our longterm datasets use standardised methodologies. They are a useful tool for estimating changes in wildlife population trends over time. Data from the spotlight monitoring surveys has been used by university researchers and the Department to measure population trends in species such as Tasmanian devils, Eastern quoll and Wombats. 

Methodology ​

Surveys are conducted by vehicle along 190 x 10km transects across five management regions on mainland tasmania as well as King and Flinders islands.  Surveys were initially undertaken along 42 survey routes in 1975.  The survey methodology was reviewed and standardised in 1985 and the number of transects increased at that time to 132.  The number of routes has now increased to 190.  Standardisation includes;

  • ​always starting the first survey on a given night 40 minutes after sunset;

  • undertaking surveys at a constant vehicle speed of 20km/hr;

  • undertaking all surveys on a given night in the same order each year;

  • only conducting surveys when wind and/or rain are below certain criteria; and

  • ensuring that the spotlight is the same brightness each year to ensure data between years is comparable (100W halogen globe).

Surveys are conducted between mid-November and mid-January each year.  All non-domestic mammals are counted as well as nocturnal birds.  The perpendicular distance from the transect (road) for each animal is estimated and the data is analysed using 'Distance Sampling' to estimate the density or abundance of the wildlife populations.  

  Spotlight Summary Report 2023-2024

​​​Monitorin​g Duck Po​​pulations

Each February since 1985, the Department carries out a state-wide count of waterbirds with assistance from the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service and many volunteers. These counts are not an attempt to count all of the ducks in the state but rather to get an index of trends in the populations.

A sample of 75 wetlands, of a variety of types, (e.g. farm dams to estuaries) are counted each year and the number of ducks seen gives an indication of whether duck numbers have increased or decreased. This information is then graphed, to indicate trends in the populations.

The graphs are available in the State-wide Waterbird Survey:

 Statewide Waterbird Surveys 1985-2023 (PDF 209Kb)

​​​Our responsibilities​​

In Tasmania, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (NRE Tas) is responsible for the conservation, management and protection of Tasmania's wildlife under the provisions of the Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulations 2021​, the Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 and the Whales Protection Act 1988. Over forty species of wildlife are monitored by NRE Tas, including:

  • rare and threatened species and

  • harvested species 


Wildlife Services

GPO Box 44,
HOBART, TAS, 7001.