Population fluctuations and range community preference of red kangaroos in central Australia.
The distribution of red kangaroos (Megaleia rufa) was determined from aerial surveys at approximately 3-wk intervals over a 4.5-yr period during which climatic conditions varied from drought to the wettest on record. The study area in the arid rangelands of central Australia was approximately 158 km2 and contained a complex diversity of grassland, mulga shrubland and woodland communities. Numbers of kangaroos on the paddock ranged up to 564 during the drought period and fluctuated between 9 and 204 at other times. The smaller changes in numbers occurred frequently between surveys as kangaroos moved into and out of the paddock in response to changes in forage conditions due to sporadic rains or fire. The mulga-annual grass community received the greatest average use by kangaroos, followed by mulga-perennial grass and open woodland. Less use was made of flood plains, gilgaied plains, foothills fans and several minor communities. The treeless plains communities and open woodland were used by kangaroos as a refuge during drought and were little used during good forage conditions, while the mulga-perennial grass community showed an opposite trend in relative use.