Have you ever found a finger-deep hole in your lawn with a cone-shaped pile of dirt next to it? It could be someone looking for gold nuggets, but it's more likely a very cute bandicoot visitor coming out at night to feed.
While you may not love the holes, bandicoots are doing your garden a fantastic service by controlling your grub numbers and aerating your soil.
A bandicoot locates food underground with its fantastic sense of smell and hearing. When it detects something in the soil, it uses its rake-like claws to dig a hole and sticks its snout into it to pull up the tasty morsel between its fine, needle-like teeth.
Bandicoots love to eat lawn grubs, which are the larvae of Christmas Beetles. By eating these, bandicoots are protecting your lawn as the larvae feed on grass roots and can damage patches of lawn.
Bandicoots are great Backyard Buddies because they love to eat insects, larvae, cockroaches, spiders and even mice. They also eat roots, tubers, underground bulbs, truffle-like fungi, sugar cane, cat or dog food if they can find it, or even food in a chicken pen or aviary. They don't need much water and can go for weeks without drinking.
Some people think that they can catch ticks from bandicoots. This is a myth! People pick up ticks easily in long grass or thick scrub, which is a great habitat for ticks, and for bandicoots, but bandicoots do not cause there to be more ticks around. To discourage ticks, remove weeds such as lantana.
A bandicoot mainly forages at night and sleeps during the day in a well hidden nest which might be in a log, crevice, drainpipe or a hole in the ground. They like to keep snug, so they line their nests with leaf litter, grass and sticks. They also like a safe spot to rest, so bandicoots cover the tops of their nests with leaf litter for camouflage, and keep the entrance closed when they are inside.
Bandicoots are territorial. The female will stay in a relatively small area such as a backyard to forage and mate, but males have a bigger territory of up to 7 hectares. A male patrols and marks the boundaries of his stomping ground with a scent gland behind his ears. If another male is spotted, the two fight by standing on their back legs and clawing at each other's shoulder and backs, often throwing each other over the shoulder just like bandicoot jujitsu. These are very serious fights!
A bandicoot should not be relocated. Another bandicoot will likely take its place soon anyway, as it will leave a good territory unoccupied. A relocated bandicoot is unlikely to survive in a new location long enough to find an unoccupied territory. If it finds itself in an occupied territory, it will either have to displace the resident bandicoot or keep on moving, during which time it will be stressed and exposed to predators such as dogs, cats and foxes, or even moving cars. Be careful when driving and look out for animals that might be trying to cross the road.
Bandicoots mostly live alone except when they are mating or have babies. At only 12.5 days, bandicoots have the shortest known pregnancy of any mammal! When they are born, bandicoots are less than 1.5 cm in length and look like a little baked bean. They crawl into mum's pouch, where there are eight teats to latch on to. Bandicoots usually only have two to four babies at a time.
After 60 days, the young have become independent adults that can fend for themselves. The mother chases them away and the youngsters go off and establish their own territories. At about six months old, bandicoots can breed and the cycle of life can begin all over again.
If bandicoots live near you, it's a sign that your local area is a healthy, thriving habitat. You can distinguish individuals by their scars, notched ears or missing tails, or even their behaviour, so if you watch them, over time you can learn more about their lives and what they get up to. They are fascinating buddies!
DID YOU KNOW?
Bandicoots are marsupial mammals, which means they have a pouch. The pouch faces backward, so it doesn't fill with dirt when mum digs for food.
If you love a formal, manicured garden but also have bandicoots around, you may want to set aside part of your garden for the bandicoots to enjoy, full of logs, native plants with a dense understory, and with no chemicals or pesticides. You can even put chicken wire around or over veggie gardens to keep bandicoots out. The wire should be at least 50 cm high and dug into the soil to a dept of 15 cm. You may also want to have an open compost heap or thick mulch for bandicoots to eat in an out of the way part of your garden, so that they don't go looking for food in the formal part.
Little Troublemaker Bandicoots
Not all backyard buddies are a joy all the time and some can be hard to love wholeheartedly. All native animals are protected. There are always little tricks to deter destructive behaviour.
Bandicoots are invaluable as a natural pest control. They love eating cockroaches, spiders and other crawlies that you may not want in great numbers in your backyard.
In the process of digging up their meals, your bandicoot will most likely leave your garden beds resembling a moonscape.
So what to do?
Usually you have two choices: Let your bandicoot do its business and enjoy a cockroach and ant free backyard or deter the bandicoot, enjoy a well-groomed garden and deal with the crawlies later.
If you want your bandicoots and a pretty garden too, you must first understand how the little troublemaker ticks.
Bandicoots love digging in soft, moist soil or lawns. They are nocturnal and usually do their thing under the cover of the night. Their noses are highly sensitive to guide them straight to that spider or worm in its underground hideout.
So if you have a bandicoot, that means that your garden is probably bandicoot heaven. Knowing that you can now make part or all of your backyard unattractive to the bandicoot.
Bandicoots don’t like bright lights. Shining a bright floodlight with or without motion detectors in their favourite part of the yard should keep them away.
Watering all or part of your garden in the morning rather than at night will also do the trick. Bandicoots prefer a moist lawn to a dry one and will go looking for it somewhere else.
Bandicoot noses also don’t like strong smells. Dynamic Lifter or chicken poo in some or all parts of your backyard should get on its nose right away.
So - if you do like your bandicoot, but just not on the lawn, why not prep your lawn and leave that unused space under the deck or on the side of the house for your marsupial pest controller?
Make them happy by planting some native grasses in ‘their’ area of the backyard, keep the dog, cat and insecticides away from their turf and, in turn, keep them away from your favourite plantings. A bandicoot proof fence will do the trick. Fine, galvanised wire mesh fence with gaps no larger than 20 mm will do. Just make sure it is burried at least 15 cm deep and stands 50 cm tall above the ground.
If you find a sick or injured bandicoot contact your local wildlife rescue group and always check the pouch of a dead bandicoot as it might have young that can still be saved.