BARN: Bandicoots

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BUNYIP BANDICOOT BUSINESS

Southern Brown Bandicoot – Isoodon obesulus

 

Our Bunyip community is incredibly fortunate to have one of the final pockets of Southern Brown Bandicoots living in our midst. While bandicoots are occasionally mistaken for rats by people who have never encountered them before, most Bunyip locals are familiar with the habits and appearance of these animals. Below are some images taken by local residents, and here is some local footage of these special little marsupials in action, in our neigbourhood.

REPORT A BANDICOOT SIGHTING

A database of local bandicoot sightings is being maintained by a dedicated group of environmental specialists. Would you like to report a sighting? Use this online form at the BVA Website.

LOCAL NETWORKING

The local community has plans for a Bandicoot Working Group to be established in Bunyip in the near future. More details coming soon.

BANDICOOT NOTES

Description: Similar in size to a small rabbit, the bandicoot’s body is somewhat pear-shaped, being widest at the rump and ending in a point at the snout. They have small rounded ears, a short thin tail, and small feet with strong claws that are perfectly suited for digging (1).

Size: Adult males are approximately 36 cm in length and can weigh up to 1,500 grams. Adult females are approximately 30 cm in length and can weigh up to 900 grams.

Variations: Long thin tails, stumpy tails, or no tails at all. Albinos have been sighted, and colour variations from light brown to dark grey have been seen. There is a closely related species known as the Long Nose Bandicoot which is also occasionally seen in our region, although these tend to be more common in areas north of the Princes Highway.

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Status and predation: This species was declared as “threatened” in 2009. Habitat loss has been the major factor in the demise of this species, but it is also vulnerable to predation. While a bandicoot’s natural predators include owls, hawks, snakes and large lizards (3), it is usually the youngsters that fall victim to such attacks. Introduced species such as foxes, dogs and cats can pose a threat to both youngsters and adults.

Legal protection: While all native animals are protected by the general Wildlife Protection Act of 1975, the legal protections for bandicoots are more stringent than most due to its threatened status. Persons found guilty of causing deliberate harm to a bandicoot can incur fines of up to $29,000 or 24 months imprisonment (Ref: Wildlife Act 1975: Section 41). In addition, destroying an area of known bandicoot habitat can attract fines of more than $6,000 (Ref: Wildlife Regulations 2002 – Regulation 9.) (4)

Diet: Bandicoots are omniverous. Food includes insects (such as beetles, cockroaches, crickets, grasshoppers, earthworms, snails, various larvae), and plant matter (such as soft roots or tubers, seeds, berries and species of fungi) (2).

Lifestyle habits: Being terrestrial animals, they have ground foraging habits. Males cover a large territory, (possibly 10-15 acres) while females can be content to range within an acre or two. Some text books state that bandicoots are nocturnal, however daytime activities are frequently observed in areas where populations are common.

Bandi walking trackBreeding patterns: Males can become aggressive toward other males during breeding season, and each male can mate with several females in a season. Mating begins during winter, and nests are built by females in dense scrub, at ground level, or sometimes in empty rabbit burrows, rock piles and hollow logs (6). Babies are born after a gestation period of just 12-14 days (3). Like other marsupials, newborn bandicoots will scramble into the mother’s pouch and attach to a nipple. Infants rely on the pouches for approximately 3 months before being required by their mothers to fend for themselves (3). Bandicoot pouches open at the back, (same as wombats), which avoids dirt being taken in during digging. Litters can include up to five infants, but three is a more common number. Females mature at about 5-6 months of age (6). Males are not involved in raising infants.

Habitat: Any low growing scrub that forms a thick covering is favoured by bandicoots. Dense scrub, bracken, even blackberry brambles, provides shelter and safety for both resting and nesting. Foraging is common on grassy open areas, roadsides, river banks, lawns and public parks. There are a range of native plants that are favoured by our local bandicoot populations, so we can assist these animals by planting their preferred vegetation in our gardens. Visit the webpage of the Cardinia Environment Coalition to find a local indigenous plant nursery.

Vocalisations: Bandicoots have a variety of vocal noises ranging from a type of bark, (usually given by males during aggressive confrontations with their own kind), to high pitched squeaks, (often coming from the infants and directed at their mothers).

Human Interactions: Native animals are generally stressed by human contact, since humans are seen as predators. “Approaching them too closely or too often can threaten their survival by disrupting resting, mating or feeding, or by disturbing their efforts to take care of their young” (5). Humans should avoid interacting with them, and especially avoid feeding them, since any interactions can expose them to disease or alter their habits, thus making them further vulnerable to predation (5).

Local Observations: The enjoyment of living with wildlife comes from observing them in their natural habitat. In some circumstances, locals have reported unusual interactions between bandicoots and other animal species, including magpies, cats and rabbits. If you would like to share your personal stories or photos, contact the BARN via email: barn@speakforanimals.info The BARN will pass your anecdotes and photographic evidence onto the Bandicoot Working Group as soon as it is up and running.

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References:
(1) DSE Southern Brown Bandicoot Fact Sheet

(2) Caring for Australian Wildlife by Sharon White
(3) Quenda Books: Bandicoot Information

(4) Thank you to Emily Gibson, Senior Compliance Officer, DSE
(5) DSE Wildlife Webpage: Let Wildlife Be Wild

(6) Oz Ark Wildlife Carers Network: Long Nose Bandicoot Page

 

LINKS

Westernport Biosphere Southern Brown Bandicoot Recovery Project

The Biosphere Bandicoot Blog

Cardinia Environment Coalition Bandicoot Corner webpage

Bayles Fauna Park

Australian Government webpage: Threatened Species – Bandicoot

 

Bandi Corner

Bandicoot Corner at Bayles, Victoria.