Video file by Kath Grieveson
The Rufous Bettong is part of the Rat kangaroo family or Potoroids, which also include Potoroos and Musky rat kangaroos. Adult head & body measurements of the Rufous Bettong are 38cm; tail same as body length 38cm. Nails are long and suitable for digging. Adult weight is 1- 3.5kg.
Colour can vary from dark rufus to silver grey on the back, with pale cream under chest. It has a hairy muzzle and short ears. Sexual maturity is reached at 12 months of age for males and 10 months for females.
The Rufous Bettong sleeps during the day in conical grass nests built on a shallow depression at the base of a grass tussock or a fallen log in relatively open forest with dense grassy cover, habitat similar to that preferred by Eastern Grey Kangaroos.
Their long nails allow them to dig for their preferred diet of roots and tubers. They feed on grasses such as Blady Grass (Imperata cylindrica) and various species of Poa, herbs, tubers, roots, fungi & some insects.
An important part of their diet is truffles, which are the spore-bearing bodies of underground fungi. Those fungi (called ectomycorhizal fungi) associate with the rootlets of trees such as eucalypts, helping the tree to take up minerals from the soil. By digging up and eating the truffles, bettongs disperse those spores in their dung, helping the fungi to spread to new hosts. In that way bettongs play an important role in the ecosystems they live in. Restoring bettongs to areas from which they have disappeared may benefit the health of the whole ecosystem. Note from Yaraandoo Eco-Lodge web site www.yaraandoo.com.au.
Apart from mothers with young, they nest solitary in the wild. They have a prehensile tail which they use to carry grasses gathered for nesting.
Multible nest sites are built by individual animals in order for them to flee to a new site in case of predators.
Due to European settlement, clearing of agricultual land and introduction of foxes, rabbits, hares,cats and dogs the Potoroids have not done well. They have much reduced ranges and two of the 10 species are now extinct.
Pouch life is around 4 months, the single joey stays with mum till 9 months old. Due to the short pouch life females are able to produce 2 young per year.