These cute little creatures look similar to the feral mouse, but there are differences. For one, the Antechinus lacks the pungent odours associated with mice, they also lack the enlarged incisor teeth (front) like the mouse, instead they have teeth similar to canines. They do not gnaw on cables etc like mice, and they are unlikely to eat stored food, being carnivores they prefer insects and small lizards.
We have 3 species of Antechinus in Northern NSW; being the Brown Antechinus, Dusky Antechinus and Yellow- footed Antechinus. The breeding season is in winter or early spring, from July to September, but the timing differs between species and also with the location of populations.
All 3 species have a similar breeding pattern, with the males becoming very aggressive searching for females. They mate for up to 6 hours at a time over a period of 2 weeks with a number of females, after which not a single male is left alive, death results from stress due to aggressive behaviour and the excessive mating ritual.
About a month after mating the female gives birth to approx. 7-10 tiny babies. They are carried in a kind of open pouch clinging to the nipples of the mother, as she goes about her business, being dragged over the ground for 5-8 weeks depending on species. One wonders how they manage to survive this early part of their life.
After 6-8 weeks they become too large to travel with the mother, they are now left in the nest made of dry plant material, hidden in a hollow log or similar protected place. They are weaned at 3 months of age, and now travel with mum through the summer months. As winter approaches, they all become solitary and go their separate ways, sexually maturing at 11 months of age.
The Dusky Antechinus is found only on the east coast of Australia and Tasmania, living in mainly mountainous areas with dense understorey of ferns and scrubs. Here it uses its long claws and powerful limbs to dig for invertebrates; it also eats fruits such as blackberry on occasion. At this stage the Dusky Antechinus is not considered threatened, however, some local populations throughout the region have been reduced due to burning, which destroys complex under storey habitat.
Please be careful when dealing with mice in your home, you could be accidentally killing protected native Wildlife, who help maintain the fragile balance of biodiversity in our local forests