All about bandicoots, our little Aussie digger
Eastern barred bandicoots are small, nocturnal Australian marsupials that like to live among tussock grasses. At night they emerge to feed on underground insects, leaving small, cone-shaped (nose-shaped!) holes as evidence of their visit.
On mainland Australia, where foxes and feral cats took a terrible toll on these vulnerable little creatures, they have become extinct in the wild, but in Tasmania we still have healthy, if shrinking, populations of eastern barred bandicoots, including here in Hobart.
Eastern barred bandicoots have a very fast breeding rate, however they live for less than three years, with many dying from predation or disease before reaching adulthood. Breeding occurs between May and December, with up to four litters produced each year. One to four bandicoots are born per litter – a maximum of 16 young a year!
After a bandicoot egg is fertilised it takes just 12 days before the young bandicoot is born – one of the shortest pregnancies recorded for any mammal. At birth the bandicoot is a little smaller than a jelly bean. It attaches to a nipple inside its mother’s near-opening pouch and grows rapidly on her rich milk. At nine weeks old, the young bandicoot leaves the nest and becomes independent.
Bandicoots emerge from their nest to begin foraging within two hours of sunset. They are most active between 1 and 4 am, travelling between 70 and 100 metres a night. If disturbed, they either ‘freeze’ or, if chased by a predator, will take off in a ‘bouncing run’, trying to avoid capture by sudden turns.
Did you know?
How the bandicoot got its name: Bandicoot is derived from the word ‘Banda Couta’, which is southern Indian for ‘pig rat’. The name was given to our bandicoots due to their superficial resemblance to the large Indian ‘pig rat' rodents.
There are other bandicoots: Australia had 11 bandicoot species – three are now extinct. Tasmania is also home to the southern brown bandicoot, which is dark brown and has no body stripes. It lives in forest and heathland across the state and also makes cone-shaped feeding holes.
Bandicoots make noises: When foraging eastern barred bandicoots make snuffling, snorting sounds. If two adults forage near each other, one will often chase the other away while ‘grunting’.
Bandicoots help farmers and gardeners! Bandicoots eat pasture pests – corbies and cockchafers – that feed on the roots of crops and lawns. Their small diggings do not cause any long-term damage to lawns, gardens or farmland – in fact, you might feel privileged to have these native marsupials visiting!