By Melissa Cunningham, The Age
Seven platypuses have been found dead inside an illegal bait trap in the Werribee River out of a local population of less than 50.
The animals were pulled from the water on Saturday in an illegally set net, which was tied to a tree near the Davis Creek junction.
The incident has sparked an investigation by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
“This is devastating news and we are shocked that one net in one week can make such an impact on an iconic animal,” department wildlife officer Abby Smith said.
“The Werribee River is home to a vulnerable and very small population of platypuses and it’s a thrill to even see one in its natural habitat.”
Ms Smith said the net was tied to a small tree opposite 92 Riversdale Drive where the Werribee River and Davis Creek meet.
The mammals were at varying stages of decomposition, but the most decomposed animal was white and had lost most of its fur.
“The net was found by a local teenager who said the net was not there the week before and reported it to the authorities,” Ms Smith said.
In July, Victoria banned the use of opera house yabby nets, which authorities believed were responsible for killing hundreds of platypuses each year.
“We don’t think the person responsible intended to catch platypus”, Ms Smith said, but it showed a “complete lack of understanding” of the destruction such a net can cause.
“Usually, illegal nets such as opera house nets and folding frame nets are encountered, but this time the net was a spring loaded collapsible cylindrical bait trap,” she said.
Senior Wildlife Ecologist, Josh Griffiths, said the Werribee River has a platypus population of less than 50.
DELWP is urging anyone with information to confidentially report crimes against wildlife to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au/report-a-crime/