What do they look like?
Around the size of a rabbit, the Bandicoot can be recognised by their pointy noise, humped back, thin tail and large hind legs. Although there are over 20 different species known only a handful remain alive today. They are usually a brown-grey colour, have small ears and usually the size of a small rabbit, but the larger bandicoots can weigh up to 3kg.
Where are they found?
Bandicoots live throughout Australia in a wide variety of habitats. The three buddies that you’re most likely to see in your backyard are the Long-nosed Bandicoot (Perameles nasuta), the Southern-brown Bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus) and the Northern-brown Bandicoot (Isoodon macrourus).
- Bandicoots are marsupial mammals, which means they have a pouch. The pouch faces backward, so it doesn’t fill with dirt when the female digs for food.
- Bilbies are actually bandicoots! The Greater Bilby is the only remaining living member of the bandicoot family Thylacomyinae. It can still be found in the wild in small areas of QLD, WA & NT and in fenced conservation reserves.
Bandicoots – the full story
Have you ever found a finger-deep hole in your lawn with a cone-shaped pile of dirt next to it?
You have a bandicoot.
Bandicoots live throughout Australia in a wide variety of habitats. There are about 21 known species but most are now extinct. The most common species of bandicoots found in backyards are:
Long-nosed bandicoot (Perameles nasuta): It is a frequent visitor to gardens around Sydney. Found commonly along the east coast of Australia, it has grey-brown fur and a white belly.
Northern brown bandicoot (Isoodon macrourus): This is the largest of the bandicoots. It has a speckled black and brown coat and is found north of the Hawkesbury River in NSW.
Southern brown bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus): This bandicoot is found across southern Australia & Tasmania. In WA the subspecies is called the Quenda. It is sometimes found in backyards in the Adelaide Hills region of SA where they are listed as endangered.
Eastern barred bandicoot (Perameles gunnii): is common in some local areas of Tasmania, it has 3 or 4 pale stripes on its hindquarters making it easily distinguished from other bandicoots.
While you may not love the holes, bandicoots are doing your garden a fantastic service by controlling your grub numbers and aerating your soil. A bandicoot locates food underground using its excellent sense of smell and hearing. When it detects something in the soil, it uses its rake-like claws to dig a hole and sticks its snout into it to pull it up between its fine, needle-like teeth.
Bandicoots eat lawn grubs, which are the larvae of Christmas Beetles. By eating these, bandicoots are protecting your lawn as the larvae feed on grass roots and can damage patches of lawn.
Bandicoots are great Backyard Buddies because they eat insects, larvae, cockroaches, spiders and even mice. They also eat roots, tubers, underground bulbs, truffle-like fungi, sugar cane, cat or dog food if they can find it, or even food in a chicken pen or aviary. They don’t need much water and can go for weeks without drinking.
A bandicoot mainly forages at night and sleeps during the day in a well hidden nest which might be in a log, crevice, drainpipe or a hole in the ground. They line their nests with leaf litter, grass and sticks. They also like a safe spot to rest, so bandicoots cover the tops of their nests with leaf litter for camouflage, and keep the entrance closed when they are inside.
Bandicoots are territorial. The female will stay in a relatively small area to forage and mate, but males have a bigger territory of up to 7 hectares. A male patrols and marks his territory with a scent gland behind his ears. If another male is spotted, the two fight by standing on their back legs and clawing at each other’s shoulder and backs, often throwing each other over the shoulder.
A bandicoot should not be relocated. Another bandicoot will likely take its place soon anyway, as it will leave a good territory unoccupied. A relocated bandicoot is unlikely to survive in a new location long enough to find an unoccupied territory. If it finds itself in an occupied territory, it will either have to displace the resident bandicoot or keep on moving, during which time it will be stressed and exposed to predators such as dogs, cats and foxes, or even moving cars. Be careful when driving and look out for animals that might be trying to cross the road at night.
Bandicoots mostly live alone except when they are mating or looking after babies. At only 12 days, bandicoots have the shortest known pregnancy of any mammal. When they are born, bandicoots are less than 1.5 cm in length. They crawl into the pouch, where there are eight teats to latch on to. Bandicoots usually only have two to four babies at a time.
After 60 days, the young have become independent adults that can fend for themselves and will leave the mother to establish their own territories. They are ready to breed at six months old.
Did you know?
Bandicoots are marsupial mammals, which means they have a pouch. The pouch faces backward, so it doesn’t fill with dirt when the female digs for food.
Bilbies are actually bandicoots! The Greater Bilby is the only remaining living member of the bandicoot family Thylacomyinae. It can still be found in the wild in small areas of QLD, WA & NT and in fenced conservation reserves.
If you love a formal, manicured garden but also have bandicoots around, you may want to set aside part of your garden for the bandicoots to enjoy, full of logs, native plants with a dense understory, and with no chemicals or pesticides. You can even put chicken wire around or over veggie gardens to keep bandicoots out. The wire should be at least 50 cm high and dug into the soil to a depth of 15 cm. You may also want to have an open compost heap or thick mulch for bandicoots in a specific part of your garden, so that they don’t go looking for food in the formal part.