What do they look like?
Often confused with rodents, bandicoots are small, omnivorous marsupials. They are about the size of a rabbit, and have a pointy snout , humped back, thin tail and large hind feet. There are around 20 species of bandicoots, three of which live in NSW:
The long-nosed bandicoot is around 31 - 43 cm in size, and weighs up to 1.5 kg. It has pointed ears, a short tail, grey-brown fur, a white underbelly, and a long snout. Its coat is bristly and rough.
Northern brown bandicoot
The northern brown bandicoot is around 30 - 47 cm in size, and weighs up to 2.1 kg. It has small, rounded ears, an elongated snout, and a speckled brown-black coat with a pale to white underbelly.
Southern brown bandicoot
The endangered southern brown bandicoot is around 28 - 36 cm in size, and weighs up to 1.5 kg. It has small, rounded ears, a longish conical snout, a short, tapered tail and a yellow-brown or dark grey coat with a cream-white underbelly.
What do they sound like?
Bandicoots have at least four distinct vocalisations:
a high-pitched, bird-like noise used to locate one another
when irritated, they will make make a "whuff, whuff" noise
when feeling threatened or alarmed, they will make a loud "chuff, chuff" noise and loud whistling squeak at the same time
when in pain or experiencing fear, they make a loud shriek
Where do they live?
Bandicoots are found throughout Australia, and can be common in coastal areas of NSW. They can live in a wide variety of habitats, from rainforests to wet and dry woodlands to heathland.
The long-nosed bandicoot is common and widespread throughout NSW, particularly in coastal areas and either side of the Great Dividing Range. This species is also the most common species of bandicoot in the Sydney area.
The northern brown bandicoot is common north of the Hawkesbury River, in coastal areas and on the eastern slopes of the Great Dividing Range.
The southern brown bandicoot is patchily distributed, and seems to occur south from the Hawkesbury River to the Victorian border and east of the Great Dividing Range. There are two main populations. One lives in Garigal and Ku-ring-gai Chase national parks in northern Sydney. The other lives around Ben Boyd National Park and Nadgee Nature Reserve in the far south-eastern corner of the state.
What do they eat?
Bandicoots mainly forage at night, consuming insects, earthworms, insect larvae and spiders. They also feed on plant tubers, roots and truffle-like fungi to supplement their diet. Bandicoots can be useful in gardens due to their appetite for grubs and garden pests. They are perhaps best known for the snout-shaped holes they leave in suburban lawns.
Breeding and life cycle
Bandicoots are multi-oestrus, meaning they breed several times during the year. Females can give birth to as many as five babies, but usually only one or two survive.
The northern brown bandicoot and long-nosed bandicoot have a very short gestation period of only 12 1/2 days, the shortest of any marsupial. The young are born very tiny and under-developed. They travel through a cord attached to their mother's womb to reach the pouch, where they are able to drink milk from their mother's teats, and grow until they are large enough to leave of the pouch. When they are about three months old, they can begin to live independently.
Bandicoot pouches are open at the back, to stop dirt entering the pouch when the mother digs.
Housing, roads and other forms of urban development have displaced and severely fragmented Sydney's bandicoot populations, making them vulnerable to the threats of predators and motor vehicles.
Very few native animals prey on bandicoots. Owls, quolls and dingos are their only significant natural predators. However, introduced animals such as feral and domestic cats, dogs and foxes pose a significant threat to the future of bandicoots.
Once abundant in the backyards of some Sydney suburbs, long-nosed bandicoots have been declining in numbers, like many native mammals. Long-nosed bandicoots have a dull grey-brown coat and a cream underbelly. They build their nests in shallow holes in the ground, lined with leaf litter. They often make nests under debris, which hides them from predators and protects them from rain and sun.
The long-nosed bandicoot is a solitary marsupial which breeds throughout the year. Female bandicoots give birth to an average of two or three young after 12.5 days gestation.
Now, the northern beaches from Manly to Palm Beach are one of the last strongholds for bandicoots in the Sydney region. There are two significant populations: on Pittwater, and on the coast near Newport. There are also fragmented smaller groups throughout the rest of the area.
A population in Sydney Harbour National Park at Manly has been listed as endangered under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 - one of the first endangered population listings in NSW. The NPWS is leading intensive efforts to help the population's recovery.
Reporting fox sightings
Foxes remain an active threat to the endangered population of long-nosed bandicoots at North Head. The Office of Environment and Heritage has a continuous baiting program in operation in Sydney Harbour National Park to control foxes and better protect the endangered population of long-nosed bandicoots. Further emergency baiting and other predator control activities are implemented as soon as fox presence on the headland is detected. Members of the community are asked to report any fox sightings in the Manly area, particularly at North Head, to the Harbour North Area (Parks and Wildlife Group) by phoning 02 9960 6266.
Bandicoots and ticks
A wide range of native and introduced animals are hosts for the paralysis tick, which can also afflict humans. Highly mobile animals, such as foxes, dogs, and domestic and feral cats, are particularly susceptible to picking up ticks as they wander long distances through bushland areas and backyards.
Bandicoots also act as hosts for the paralysis tick. However, they tend to roam over a comparatively small range, often staying within half a hectare of their nests. As a result, they are less exposed to the risk of ticks. Although some people associate bandicoots with ticks, this may be because humans tend to pick up ticks most easily in long grass or thick scrub - which also happens to be the type of habitat favoured by bandicoots.
You can help to reduce the spread of ticks in your area by:
- Regularly maintaining your garden to control tall grass and weeds, particularly the noxious weed lantana.
- Spraying yard areas with a malathion-based spray, which lasts for about two days. A natural alternative to chemical sprays is a mixture of chilli (cayenne pepper), garlic and vinegar. After being left to brew for a few days, the mixture will discourage most pests if sprayed around the garden. However, remember that any such treatment will also harm beneficial garden invertebrates.
- Regularly grooming and inspecting pets.
Living with bandicoots
Bandicoots are protected in NSW, and it is illegal to trap or kill them without a licence. You can contribute to the conservation of bandicoots and other native species by keeping your pets locked up at night, and by not allowing your pets to enter national parks at any time. The scent left by cats and dogs in bushland areas may discourage native animals from going about their natural activities.
Native animals such as bandicoots may treat your garden as a sanctuary from time to time, and you can live in harmony with them by accommodating them in purpose-designed areas. You can establish a separate area in the garden, away from the places that are used most by your family and pets, which provides native birds and animals with shelter and food. You can then use a more formal, manicured area for entertaining and relaxing.
Alternatively, you can keep bandicoots out of your backyard by building bandicoot-proof fencing. Use fine galvanised wire mesh, or any other material with gaps no larger than 20 mm. The foot of the mesh should be buried to a depth of at least 150 mm, and the fence should rise at least 500 mm above the ground.
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Page last updated: 10 March 2014