Backyard Buddies

Photo: Australian Geographic


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The common wombat is the largest burrowing herbivorous mammal. Indeed, it is such an accomplished burrower that early settlers called it a 'badger', a term that is still heard today. However, the closest relative of the wombat is, in fact, the koala. With its short tail and legs, characteristic waddle and 'cuddly' appearance, the wombat is one of the most endearing of Australia's native animals.

Wombats are nocturnal, solitary animals occurring in a wide variety of habitats throughout Australia. They live in burrows that can be up to 30 metres long and they may share these with other wombats although they are very territorial with their feeding grounds. Wombats usually stay in their burrows during the day, they normally come out at night to feed although they can be seen out early in the morning and at dusk and they’ll travel up to 3 kilometres a night looking for food.

At the time of European settlement, the Common Wombat was wide spread from southeastern Queensland, through New South Wales along the Great Dividing Range to most of Victoria (except the northwestern corner of the state). It was also present in the southeast of South Australia, in Tasmania and on many of the larger Bass Strait Islands. Today the species has a discontinued and fragmented distribution. It has almost disappeared from the western half of Victoria and it is absent from many parts of New South Wales where it formerly ranged.

There are two other species of wombat, both found on mainland Australia - the southern hairy-nosed wombat and the threatened northern hairy-nosed wombat.

Sadly, many wombats suffer from mange, which is caused when mites burrow under the wombat's skin. Symptoms include fur loss, crusty and itchy skin, constant thirst and hunger, diminished vision and hearing. If left untreated mange can result in a slow, painful death. If you see a wombat potentially suffering from mange, please contact your local wildlife organisation to organise an assessment. Sometimes injuries from animal attacks can be incorrectly thought to be mange and it's critical to make sure the wombat is being treated correctly.



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Michele – National Parks Ranger, NSW

Photo: OEH