AERIAL surveys trialled last week of the coastal emu as part of early work for the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Hwy upgrade indicated the species was more sparsely located than anticipated.
Roads and Maritime Services completed the surveys using a low-flying helicopter across a 250sq km area to record emu movement, distribution and habitat to the east and west of the highway corridor between Pillar Valley and Maclean.
Two surveys were carried out for two hours each last week.
The survey located two emus, which indicated the population was much more sparsely located than anticipated.
"Aerial surveys were trialled to reach hard-to-access areas and to determine their efficiency to calculate the coastal emu population and distribution," an RMS spokesperson said.
"The $30,000 survey detected many other species of wildlife, including brolga, jabiru and kangaroo.
"Roads and Maritime will use the baseline data to monitor any changes and inform an emu management plan to minimise the potential impact of the project and further develop mitigation measures appropriate and effective for emus and other animals."
Emu exclusion fencing is proposed to be built in areas of highest emu activity along the new alignment before major work starts to allow emus to become accustomed to proposed crossing locations.
Tenders for the emu fencing are expected to be invited shortly.