The term bandicoot is actually derived from an Indian word meaning pig-rat. However bandicoots are not rodents, they are a family of marsupials found in Australia, New Guinea and some islands. There are 9 species of bandicoot in Australia, they are closely related to the bilby which is sometimes called the rabbit eared bandicoot.
Bandicoots are small: the largest species weighs a maximum of 2-3 kilos. Their snouts are long and pointed and their tails are short. They have a coarse outer coat but soft undercoat, the colour of which varies according to the species. They are quadrupeds, and with hind legs that are longer than their forelegs so they move with a bounding, galloping gait and are unable to climb. Their front paws are used for digging and holding their food.
All bandicoots are nocturnal, during the day they hide in nests and emerge to forage at night. They are solitary and territorial but their territories are not large and they tend to range over a couple of hectares.
Gestation is the shortest of any mammals at just 12.5 days. Females have a eight teats in a backward facing pouch but seldom carry more than 2 or 3 young, which retain a long umbilical connection to the placenta during the early stage in the pouch. The young detach from the teat at 7 weeks and become independent when about 8 weeks old. There is a very high mortality rate for juvenile bandicoots. Adults usually live 2-3 years.
Bandicoots forage and dig for insects, larvae, fungi, and roots. They play a vital role in promoting the growth and regeneration of bushland by aerating the topsoil, distributing fungi, and promoting plant germination.
Two species of bandicoot live on Tamborine Mountain
The Northern Brown Bandicoot (Isoodon macrourus) has a body length of 400mm, tail 170mm, weight 2 kg. It has a long pointed snout, rounded ears, harsh brown fur and leaves small conical pits in soil and lawns. Has a balloon screech call if disturbed.
The Long-nosed Bandicoot (Perameles nasuta) has a body length of 400mm, tail 140mm, weight 1.5 kg. It has a long pointed snout, pointed ears and leaves conical pits in soil and lawns. Has a shrill toy trumpet screech call if disturbed.
Years ago when CSIRO scientists trapped bandicoots to research their immunity to scrub ticks they found the two species reacted very differently to short-term captivity. The long-nosed became stressed and died (their trapping was discontinued) while the other species were far more relaxed.
Bandicoots are generally thought of as abundant, but their populations are crashing as urbanisation, habitat loss, predation by dogs, cats and feral animals, pollution and motor vehicles kill an increasing number of animals. Recently on Tamborine Mountain there have been a considerable number of bandicoots lying dead beside the road after being hit by cars.
Bandicoots are unpopular with tidy gardeners because they dig little holes, however bandicoots are actually doing their bit for pest control. Bandicoots don’t dig pointlessly, they are able to detect the sound of insect activity under ground and they are unfailingly accurate in locating and consuming them. For example the scarab beetle larvae eat lawns and the adult beetles eat leaves, each female beetle can lay 300 eggs, so a bandicoot ridding a garden of these pests is preventing a lot of insect damage.
You can help these gentle little creatures by keeping cats and dogs inside from dusk to dawn, driving carefully and leaving a bit of your garden as a nature refuge by planting natives and allowing undergrowth to develop as cover.