Bandicoots

Perameles bowensis

 

Bandicoots are small, omnivorous marsupials found throughout Australia and can be common in some coastal areas of NSW. They live in a wide variety of habitats, from rainforests to wet and dry woodlands to heath.

Bandicoot size varies between species, adult head-body length ranging from approx. 30-43cm, weight between 500-1900gms with males being larger than females.

During the day they nest in shallow holes in the ground under dense vegetation or debris hiding them from predators and protecting them from the elements. The nest is lined with leaf litter and grass, which is scraped together with its forelegs. The upper surface of the nest is partly covered by soil and well concealed with debris. When the nest is occupied the entrance is well hidden.

Bandicoots are able to breed at any time of year; gestation is 12 1/2 days, the shortest gestation period of any marsupial. 2-7 young are born weighing approximately 2.5 gram and 13 mm. long, the tiny bandicoots make their way to the pouch whilst still attached to the umbilical cord until such time as they are securely attached to one of 8 teats.

Normally only 3-4 young are raised, this is due to the fact that mum may breed again as soon as the young leave the pouch, the teats that the young used are now too large for the newly born to attach to, thus 2 successive litters will use alternate teats.

The young stay in the pouch for 60 days, and become independent at about 3-4 months of age. The pouch is backward opening; just as well as the little ones would otherwise be covered in dirt when mum digs for food, it also makes that first journey to the pouch a bit shorter just after birth.

There are around 20 species of bandicoots, 3 of which live in NSW and 2 are found in WIRES Northern Rivers area, the Northern Brown (Isoodon macrourus) and the Long Nosed Bandicoot (Perameles nasuta) .

The Long Nosed is smaller than the Northern Brown, and like its name suggests it has a very long nose. The hind limbs of both species resemble that of a kangaroo, the thigh is powerful, foot elongate and the second and third toe is joined.  The toes have long sharp claws suitable for digging in soil. The hind limbs can be used for leaping, but the usual fast movement is like a gallop.

Bandicoots have excellent hearing and eyesight and they can emit a sharp, high-pitched squeak when foraging.

The Bandicoot is a territorial animal and can be aggressive; any aggression is generally directed at rivals as they cross each other’s territory.

Bandicoots dig cone shaped holes in the ground looking for worms, insects and roots. Complaints are often heard regarding holes dug in the garden by these interesting creatures, but if you consider that they are at the same time getting rid of garden pests; maybe we should be thankful for their assistance.

They have a home range of 1-6 hectares; however, they tend to roam over a comparatively small range, often staying within half a hectare of their nests and can live for up to 3 years. Although some people associate bandicoots with ticks, this may be due to human’s tendency to pick up ticks most easily in long grass or thick scrub- which also happens to be the type of habitat favoured by bandicoots.

Main predators are dogs, cats, foxes, python snakes and the ferocious motor vehicle.

Should you see a dead bandicoot on the side of the road, please stop and check (if it is safe to do so) if it is a male or female, females may have live young in the pouch, if this is the case please call WIRES or your nearest wildlife care group as soon as possible for assistance.