April 2014

Mammal mix up

Northern Brown Bandicoot (Isoodon macrourus)

Have bandicoots even been found in the City Botanic Gardens? If not, what were the darting little brown forms I used to see passing from one bush to another when I visited the gardens 20 years ago?

Answer

Bandicoots are nocturnal marsupials that still persist in some Brisbane suburban areas. Northern Brown Bandicoots (Isoodon macrourus) can be found in inner suburbs with protective daytime cover (such as long grass, thick shrubs or rubbish piles). In the outer suburbs, these marsupials can be found in eucalypt forests and open paddocks. Northern Brown Bandicoots are infamous for the small, conical holes they dig in lawns and gardens.

Bandicoots are relatively adaptable animals. In terms of habitat requirements, the Brisbane of today may actually be more suitable to them when compared with the Brisbane of several decades ago. That said, I doubt very much that bandicoots have ever been present in the City Botanic Gardens, either 20 years ago or today. These gardens are very poorly connected to other natural areas and bandicoots need complex vegetation structure at ground level, with lots of undergrowth, if they are to persist in an area.

Brown Rat Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus)

There is an obvious candidate for your 'darting little brown form'... A rat! Two species would be present and possibly abundant in the city gardens, the Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) and Black Rat (Rattus rattus). Both are introduced.

This may be a case of someone seeing a rat and believing it to be a bandicoot. Unfortunately, the reverse often occurs, where native bandicoots are killed by people who mistake them for large rats. It is important to remember that if you see a brown darting form in the garden, you may have crossed paths with a special native marsupial and not an introduced pest.

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