How well do you know your natives?
Whether you have lived here your whole life or have just arrived, it is likely that many Australian native animals will be unfamiliar to you. Sure, you can identify a kangaroo, kookaburra or koala; but do you know your bush rat from your black rat? Or your bandicoots from your potoroos? Take a look through some of these photos and see how well you do.
These photos have been sourced from my Masters research with the University of Melbourne Fire Ecology and Biodiversity Group. We used motion-sensitive cameras to capture these critters, lured by a mixture of rolled oats, peanut butter, golden syrup and pistachio essence. This bait mix is effective for small mammals, but we have also managed to capture some incidental photos of other native species. You can click on the photos to enlarge them.
Let’s start off with some iconic species.
Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus)
Easy, right? Well here are some testers.
The Bush Rat is widespread along the coast of Victoria and prefers forest with a dense understory. The main identifying feature of the bush rat is the length of the tail: it should be approximately the same length as the body.
Another native rat, the Swamp Rat, is also found along the coast of Victoria. This rat prefers dense, wet vegetation. You can distinguish the Swamp Rat from a Bush Rat by the length of the tail. Swamp Rat tails are considerably shorter than those of Bush Rats- only about 70% of the body length. Swamp Rats also tend to be darker in colour.
Southern Brown Bandicoot (Isodon obesulus)
The Southern Brown Bandicoot is about the size of a football and can be found along coastal Victoria. They prefer heathy vegetation and coastal scrub. Southern Brown Bandicoots can be identified by their long noses and the narrow base of their tails. They are listed as Endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC 1999)
The Long-nosed Potoroo is also about the size of a football and is a macropod (like the kangaroo). In Victoria, Long-nosed Potoroos are mostly found in heathy woodland along the coast. Long-nosed Potoroos have a broader tail base and their noses are a lot shorter than bandicoots. They are also identifiable by the way they stand: upright, like a kangaroo. Long-nosed Potoroos are listed as Vulnerable under EPBC (1999).
Unfortunately we do get some non-native pest species, and more common than we would like for our native forests.
The Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) is one of them.
As are feral cats (Felis catus).
Cats and foxes are one of the drivers of mammal decline in Australia. You can help protect our native wildlife by keeping your cat indoors at night.
…and the Ugly.
This angry creature is a Black Rat. This introduced species is common around human settlements and wetter disturbed environments. You can distinguish the Black Rat from most native rats by the length of the tail. The tail of a Black Rat is considerably longer than the length of the body (whereas the tails of most native rats are no longer than the body length). When comparing to Bush Rats, Black Rat ears are also much taller.
Improve your ID skills and contribute to science.
Interested in native wildlife or want to learn more? You can discover all about thousands of native species using the Atlas of Living Australia. You can also get involved in citizen science projects across Australia, and use your ID skills to contribute to distribution mapping of species. The greater the contribution to mapping, the greater the understanding and protection of our species- so get involved today.