The crest-tailed mulgara was believed extinct in New South Wales but has been found alive. Katherine Moseby

An animal that was believed to have gone locally extinct more than a century ago has been found alive.

While doing some routine monitoring in the Australian desert, scientists were surprised to find a crest-tailed mulgara, a marsupial that looks a bit like a mouse and was thought to have died out. It was the first time one had been found alive in the area, the University of New South Wales said.

Scientists had known about the animal’s previous existence in the southeastern Australian state from fossils of bone fragments but believed it was no longer around.

“The crest-tailed mulgara was once widely distributed across sandy desert environments in inland Australia, but declined due to the effects of rabbits, cats and foxes,” ecologist Rebecca West said in the UNSW statement. “The species weighs around 150 grams and has pale blonde fur and a thick tail with a distinctive black crest.”

The crest-tailed mulgara was believed extinct in New South Wales but has been found alive. Reece Pedler

The team that was involved in the carnivorous marsupial’s discovery is part of the university’s Wild Deserts project, which works to reintroduce animals that have gone locally extinct in the country’s desert environments and protect them.

It was unclear how many of this species could still be alive there, but UNSW reported that Wild Deserts researchers believe they are growing in population and expanding their territory. That could be in part because certain predators like red foxes and feral cats have diminished in number, leaving more small rodents for the crest-tailed mulgara to eat.

“Next year we are due to begin introduced predator and rabbit eradication from a large area, which will no doubt help the mulgara,” Wild Deserts project coordinator Reece Pedler said in the statement.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the crest-tailed mulgara as near-threatened overall, although said it could be close to being classified as vulnerable.

It was listed as vulnerable throughout the 1990s, but was later downgraded to “least concern” before being brought back up to near-threatened.

The mulgara is a nocturnal creature that hangs out in burrows during the daytime. Throughout other parts of Australia, according to that country’s environmental department, it is “sparse but widespread.” Individuals can live for two to three years and feed on lizards and small mammals.