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This study was conducted at Fowlers Gap Arid Zone Research Station (31°05’S, 141°43’E), 110km north of Broken Hill, NSW between March 2018 and September 2019. The station was established in 1966 by the University of New South Wales as both a research and working sheep station [21]. The climate at Fowlers Gap is arid, with a 50-year mean annual rainfall of 230.7mm, although this is highly variable [21, 22]. In summer, daily temperatures exceed 30°C, while the temperatures in winter are mild, rarely falling below 0°C [21].

During and for 2 years prior to this study, Fowlers Gap had experienced a drought with annual rainfalls of 84.4mm in 2017, 48.2mm in 2018 and 42.0mm in 2019 [22]. Arid zones are particularly susceptible to climatic changes, and this prolonged drought is likely to have altered the landscape and biodiversity of the region [6].

The study area covered 15km2 around the main homestead, encompassing Fowlers Creek, Homestead Creek and Gum Creek and an earthen dam known as “Lake”. The area is characterised by arid shrubland, predominately saltbush (Atriplex vesicaria) [23, 24], while perennial vegetation is mostly absent. River red gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) and prickly wattle (Acacia victoriae) dominate the riverine woodlands, resulting in a large build-up of leaf litter that can be used by echidnas for shelter as well as food for their prey [23, 24]. The ephemeral creek habitats are characterised by steep, well defined banks surrounding narrow flow beds as well as and sparse trees both in the flow bed and along the bank shelves. The earthen tank habitat consists of a semi-permanent water hole surrounded by indistinct banks, ephemeral flow bed and flood out. The bank and ephemeral flood out area is covered with river red gum and a dense layer of leaf litter which creates a cool, moist environment [19]. The only known successful predator of adult echidnas, the dingo (Canis lupus dingo) is absent from this study site [2].

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