According to Backyard Buddies, a program run by Australia’s Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife, bandicoots breed year-round but have a breeding peak from winter to summer, so look out for them now as they will be more active and may have babies with them. Since bandicoots are usually solitary animals, during breeding times your backyard can become a temporary boxing ring for their territorial scuffles.
Like wombats, bandicoots have backwards-facing pouches so that when the mum is digging around, her pouch won’t fill up with soil. In her pouch, a bandicoot mum will carry two to six babies around with her for around three months until they’re old enough to fend for themselves.
Your best chance of spotting bandicoots is with a torch at night or in the early morning and evening, when they will often still be out-and-about foraging.
‘Bandicoots are sometimes blamed for spreading ticks in backyards and bushland but the truth is, because they only roam small distances, they are not spreading ticks very far,’ said Ms Susanna Bradshaw, CEO of the Foundation. ‘It’s the foxes and other feral animals who travel much further afield that spread the most ticks. Increased tick numbers are also more associated with climatic conditions and a lack of natural fires.
‘It’s true that the bandicoot can be a little messy when it comes to foraging for food. It’s not uncommon to see leaf litter tossed about or the odd hole in your lawn when there’s a bandicoot around.
‘They do this to dig out and eat many of our unwanted garden bugs and grubs, helping to protect your plants. The curl grub is notorious for creating unsightly brown patches in your lawn but they make a great meal for the bandicoot who will help you keep them under control.’
Tips for living with bandicoots
• Set aside an area of your garden with plenty of mulch and small shrubs or grasses that can be exclusively used for your bandicoot buddy. This will give them more incentive to scratch around here instead of the rest of your garden.
• Leave a small shallow dish of water out for them to drink from when it gets hot as clean water can be hard to come by for a bandicoot.
• Make sure you check areas of long grass before you start mowing or whipper snipping as bandicoots make their nests in grasses to sleep in during the day.
‘Far from being a nuisance, this friendly buddy can be a big asset to the health of your garden and a wonderful surprise to come across,’ said Ms Bradshaw.
‘A recent study in Tasmania suggests that the bandicoot plays a vital role in helping reduce the incidence and severity of bushfires. They cover leaf litter with soil as they dig, covering up the flammable material and helping it to decompose.’
Ms Bradshaw said that when bandicoots are going about their usual business, ‘they often make bird-like noises. When they are a bit annoyed, they make a “whuff, whuff” sound and when they are in pain or extreme danger they will let out an explosive screech.’
• The main character, Crash, in the well-known video game series Crash Bandicoot, is based on the endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoot.
• Bandicoots have one of the shortest pregnancies of any mammal, lasting just 12 days from conception.
• All bandicoots are omnivores because they eat plants and animals. Their favourite foods are insects, roots and truffles.
Sign up for B-mail and download a free factsheet about bandicoots at www.backyardbuddies.net.au.