June 2016

Kangaroo Rat or Rat Kangaroo?

These little mammals live on our farm and we find them curled up in long grass when walking or driving through the grass.

 Is this what people call a Kangaroo Rat?

Answer

Rufous Bettong (Aepyprymnus rufescens) photo by Audrey Sampson.
Rufous Bettong (Aepyprymnus rufescens) (QM Image)

The animal in your image is a Rufous Bettong Aepyprymnus rufescens. These Australian native marsupials grow to about the size of an adult rabbit. Long thin hind legs allow them to hop much like a kangaroo and if they are alarmed they stamp their hind feet on the ground. These little creatures sleep in nests during the day. Their nests are usually depressions in the ground that they line with grasses. They become active at night, foraging for food and fresh nesting material to line their nests.

Bettongs will use their tail to curl around piles of collected grass and carry it back to their nesting site. They may have several nests on the go at any one time and may move between nests. It is a rare experience to see these little mammals in the wild due in part to the continued predation threat of feral animals such as foxes, cats, competition for food from rabbits and the reduction of their preferred habitat; dry open forest with a dense ground cover of grasses.

The Rufous Bettong is sometimes referred to as a Rufous Rat-Kangaroo. A Kangaroo Rat on the other hand is the common name of species of small rodents in the genus Dipodomys native to North America.



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