The Bush Rat – Rattus fuscipes

Introduction

To most people, a rat is one of the undesirable introductions to Australia by the early settlers. There are however, many Australian native rats; placental mammals that produce live young in an early stage of development. These rats entered the continent in relatively recent times; long after the arrival of marsupials, but still long before Europeans and the introduced Black and Brown Rats arrived. Despite the dominance of marsupials in Australia, many of our native rats successfully established themselves in a range of habitats.

Photo of a Bush Rat

A Bush Rat
Photographer / Source: Gary Lewis

The Bush Rat, Rattus fuscipes, is a small compact mammal with an average length of 310 mm (160 mm body + 150 mm tail) and an average weight of 160 grams. The fur is soft and dense, varying from grey brown to reddish brown above and grey to light brown below. The tail length is shorter than the head and body length, which is a useful diagnostic feature. It can be separated readily from marsupials by its typical paired, yellow-orange faced, upper and lower incisors.

Where do they occur?

Bush Rats are common throughout much of coastal mainland Australia. There are several sub-species, of which the best known is Rattus fuscipes assimilis from the south-east. It occurs in a wide range of habitats from sub-alpine heaths to coastal scrub, wherever there is dense ground cover, but it is absent from the Mornington Peninsula. It prefers a vegetation cover of shrubs and ferns.

What do they eat?

Bush Rats have a mixed diet, which includes insects and vegetation such as leaves, fruit, seeds and fungi. This diet aids its survival under such adversity as bush fires. It can survive periods of food shortage after a bushfire by feeding on the rapidly emerging fungi.

What is their breeding cycle?

The Bush Rat of the southeast is capable of breeding in all seasons, but as a rule does not breed in winter. The usual litter size is five, and in a good season a number of litters may be produced. From a birth weight of about 5 g, the young become independent when they are about four weeks old, and are capable of breeding in the wild at about four months of age.

What is their conservation status?

Bush Rats are widespread and common and are secure in suitable habitat.

Further Reading

Menkhorst, P. and Knight, F. (2001). A field guide to the mammals of Australia. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Menkhorst, P. (Ed.) (1995). Mammals of Victoria. Oxford University Press. Melbourne

Strahan, R. (Ed.) (1995). The Mammals of Australia. Reed. Chatswood. N.S.W.

Comments (110)

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Andrew Horwood 9 September, 2014 11:54
We have some sort of bush rat/s around our house at Clayfield in Brisbane. I have only caught glimpses of them at night but they do not appear to be ratus ratus. The problem is that either they (or a small possum) have taken to nesting periodically in the engine bay of our car and have chewed through some electrical wires. This has been fixed, but I was wondering if you knew of a humane way to discourage them from nesting?
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Discovery Centre 16 September, 2014 12:58
Hi Andrew, whilst we sympathise with your situation, Museum Victoria doesn't provide advice on animal control methods - perhaps your local council's Environmental Health Officer or erquivalent might be able to assist?
Janine 31 August, 2014 08:12
Hello. My housemate's cat brought into the house what unfortunately looks like a native bush rat (rounded ears, shorter tail). When I came to dispose of it, I found that it's body was still warm and had no visible major injuries although it appeared to be dead. I wondered if maybe the rat was "playing dead" and put it in the bush across the road instead of in the bin... I'm wondering if you know whether bush rats play dead when captured by predators or if they are more likely to die of shock, etc?
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Discovery Centre 2 September, 2014 15:02
Hi Janine - I spoke with one of our experts on this, and we're not aware of any unique behaviour by bush rats to “play dead”. Most animals are likely to remain warm for a while after they are dead, or it may have been in shock, or it’s neck could have been severed (which doesn’t always lead to an obvious sign of injury) but it’s hard to say based on the info provided. In our experience there's nothing special about bush rats (or any other rats that we’ve worked with) that exhibits a special behaviour like 'playing dead' when caught.
Faith Griffiths 26 March, 2014 21:40
Had what I thought was a mouse or rat of some sort sunning itself in my backyard. It had a rounded body nose smaller than "regular" mice or rats. It jumped down into the drain once I got too close to it. It was grey bigger than a mouse totally different body shape to common rats. Any ideas? (Home is across from a racecourse close to a river and land backs onto a large vacant block.
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John 18 February, 2014 14:11
Hi yesterday Morning about 10 a.m. I heard my two year old cockatiel screech frantically, I rushed outside to see a rather large brown/grey rat nibble away at his bird seed container, upon seeing me it curled into a ball and eyed me off intently. I didn't move just stare.obviously it was scared. When I lifted the cage to getting out, it started jumping up and down trying to get out. I must admit, even though I'm grossed out by mice and rats, I admired the fact of how agile it was. When opened the cage door to get out. With an old of garden gloves by its tail, I literally hopped away like a wallaby! Just wandering what kind of rat it was any answer is appreciated.
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Discovery Centre 19 February, 2014 16:25
Hi John, most likely the introduced Rattus rattus, (especially if you live in suburbia). Unfortunately without images we can't say for sure, if you see it again and can get some shots feel free to send them to discoverycentre@museum.vic.gov.au
angela Lunder 21 November, 2013 10:20
I have these rats in abundance and Im in rosebud west. Im almost certain, bar the fact that they often have a white ring around the bottom and tail section. I cant see them being anything else. Similar behaviour as described by john spencer (above). Unless I have a mutant species I would say the mornington peninsula has lots of them :)
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John Spencer 14 September, 2013 18:55
GDay, We have just noticed in the last couple weeks the native bush rat showing itself in the vegie garden area. I have been able to get so close as to pat it! I have taken some pics and as I zoom in on the PC it seems its eyes are glazed and milky blue. I have feed it some sheep pellets (snatches them) which just sits and eats. Shining a torch from close has no affect on it? It seems very sluggish, although can jump. I just went out as it was getting dark and it is gone but the last sheep pellet is only half eaten. We have a number of neighbouring cats coming around. I cannot see how it could be the one from last year as it is so "unaware" of anything that could eat it. I was wondering if I should catch it and take it to a vet? I have pics but not sure how to attach here?
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dave caruana 5 September, 2013 19:05
g'day, this arvo i noticed a fury litte creature in our back yard in Atarat. it was not worried about me watching him eat seeds off the grass, i took a photo of it and it looks exactly like the photo above. our front yard is full of tunnels and tracks and i thought these were from the western blue tounge lizzards we have spotted out there. is an adault bush rat about the size of a guinea pig? cheers dave.
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Norma Bradley 18 November, 2013 10:03
Dave, I was in Ararat on Wednesday, in McLellan Street...for a few hours visiting, then drove out to Crowlands. I have a new ix35 and in the morning the car wouldn't accelerate. My firend opened the bonnet and the cover over the manifold, and out popped this same little furry animal that is in the picture, cute, and as you described, like a hamster or guinea pig. She looked pregnant, and had eaten right through the wires from the injectors! It looked like she was making a nest. After the mouse plague though I am a bit nervous about rodents, so is my dog!
Catherine 7 April, 2013 13:13
I live in Edithvale which seems to have an ongoing problem with rodents. Whilst most people like to think they've been infested with "bush rats" I hate to say that it's only rattus rattus and mice that live around our homes. I use "The Big Cheese" wax blocks in my roof and that seems to keep them at bay. This poison is the safest around pets and humans.
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Discovery Centre 7 April, 2013 13:52

Hi Catherine - whilst it is probably the Black Rat Rattus rattus that you are describing, you should also be aware that the native Swamp Rat Rattus lutreolus is also known from Edithvale and further along the Mornington Peninsula. You are probably right in saying the rats in question aren't Bush Rats Rattus fuscipes (also a native) as they generally don't live in this region, however Swamp Rats may account for some of the rats seen in the Edithvale area.

If ever there is a chance to photograph one of them, feel free to send the picture to us via the 'Contact Us' link at the bottom of this page and we'll see if we can determine which species it is.

Janet 22 January, 2013 21:44
Hello, we have a house at Walkerville in Sth Gippsland where I think native rats are known to be. We have rats between the first floor ceiling and second floor. They make an incredible noise in the early hours of the morning and we are concerned about the wiring. Are they unlikely to be native rats as they are inside the house?
Discovery Centre 26 January, 2013 15:14
Hi Janet; sorry to say it's not really possible to be certain without seeing an image of the creatures in question - introduced rats like the Black Rat Rattus rattus are far more likely to become housemates as they are a commensal species; native rats such as the Bush and Swamp Rats are much less likely to be so, and tend to be less bold. Having said this, the bush areas surrounding Walkerville would certainly be home to native Rat species, so it's hard to be certain. If you see one of the noisy yculprits, look at the relative tail and ear length - a good rule of thumb is that Black Rats have tails longer than the remaining body length and large, rounded ears that aren't flattened to the skull.
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Discovery Centre 22 November, 2012 11:32
Hi Jan, it’s true that bush rats rarely enter buildings and don’t construct their nests in roofs, whereas black rats frequently do. One option is to trap all the rats using live trapping methods and release the bush rats once you’ve identified them. The two most easily distinguishable features are:

Bush rats have rounded ears, whereas black rats have thin pointed ears;

Bush rats’ tails are shorter than their body length, whilst the tails of black rats are as long or longer than their body length.

It’s unlikely you’ll find a type of bait or a trapping location that would guarantee the capture of black rats alone.

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Nathan 19 November, 2012 00:00
Hello, My partner and I found 6 of what we believe to be newborn rats in a mopbucket at the Healesville sanctuary where we work. We are only cleaners there, and currently trying to nurse and feed them. Where can we take them in Melbourne to ensure they're raised and cared for?
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Jan B 16 November, 2012 09:44
I have native rats in my garden, I also have bad rats, they all seem to like my vegies. I am happy to share with the cute bush rats But, I put baits out i will kill both the bad rats and the native rats. The bad rats seem to run through the trees and into my roof. If I put the baits up high in the trees and near the roof will that protect the good rats and kill ths bad rats. My stupid fox terrior can't tell the difference between bush rats and bad rats so I can't use her!
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Discovery Centre 24 June, 2012 12:09
Hi Michele, Museum Victoria offers a free Identification Service. If you send us the photos of the rat you saw in Keysborough, we should be able to tell you whether or not it's a Bush Rat. Please read our Identification Guidelines before submitting your request. We look forward to seeing your pictures!
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Michele 24 June, 2012 11:38
I was wondering if i could send pics of what i think maybe a bush rat in Keysborough.
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Discovery Centre 23 June, 2012 16:06

Hi James - I'm sorry to report that it isn't possible to identify the rat you describe without seeing an image; if you manage to get a clear image of one of the animals, feel free to send it to us via the "Contact Us" link at the bottom of this page. Bush Rats can be quite variable in colour, but so too can the introduced Black Rat. To further confuse issues, another native rat species called the Swamp Rat Rattus lutreolus can also have a grey pelt, but colouration is not diagnostic between these three species as all of them exhibit variability in their pelt colour.

Hope this helps

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James 29 May, 2012 11:32
Hi, we're in Silvan, just below the reservoir. We have a number of patches of burrows and tunnels that run through the root level of the grass, incuding undermining small trees. I think we have a significant population of bush rats, but they are all grey. All the descriptions I've found describe brown fur. They have a rounded over 'guinea pig' shaped nose. (I have pictures) Are there varieties of Bush Rats with even grey fur? Thanks!
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Discovery Centre 29 April, 2012 16:20

Hi Glennis, without seeing a clear image of the animal in question it is impossible to be certain of the species you have, but the behaviour you describe doesn't sound like a Bush Rat. Bush Rats are not regarded as commensal (that is, unlike introduced rodents they don't generally associate with human habitations), and also Bush Rat's preferred diet of invertebrates, seeds, fruits, plant tissue and fungi renders them unlikely to be responsible for eating the soap - this sounds more like the behaviour of a Black Rat.

If you are able to send us any images of the animal in question, please do so via the 'Contact Us' link at the bottom of this page and we can see if the identity of the rodent in question can be determined. As a rule of thumb though, if the tail of the animal is longer than the remaining body length, the individual will most likely be a Black Rat.

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Glennis Korsman-D'Elboux 29 April, 2012 14:41
I have for the second year bush rats living in my walk in wardrobe that was created on the end of a verandah I am quiet happy for them to be there but why do they like my soap they have to have woolworths select lavender no other will do I first started putting soap around the house when we had the mouse problem and they keep stealing it and chewing it I have found 11 cakes in one nest could it be the soap has animal fats It has me baffeled hope you can help also the cat will not touch them only mice interest him and also my dingos wont touch them but watch out rattus rattus how they know the diff I dont know Glennis
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susan davies 26 April, 2012 12:53
No answer required. I would like to say that the SOUTHERN BROWN BANDICOOT which has a short tail, digs small conical holes in soft soil seeking food, is often confused by people as a rat.
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Kyla Villa 29 February, 2012 01:11
Great one, very helpful! This will surely help a lot of people to understand what it really means. Your article explain everything so well. Good job!
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Coral Holman 15 February, 2012 14:21
We live just outside Warrandyte, Victoria and have a network of tunnels in the garden. We live on a rural property with a lot of flowering grasses and undergrowth is plentiful at the moment due to the good rain we have had. We pride our selves on having a friendly native environment for the local wild life, kangaroos, echidna, reptiles. Late afternoon around 6pm on wards I see at least 2 rats, one generally sitting on my stag fern suspended by an old climbing rose. I have actually watched this fairly dainty rat wash itself, and it did look quite sweet. I think this rat had rounded ears but I do find it difficult to tell if the tail was shorter than its body as the tail was gently dangling and slightly curved. Sometimes the other rat will climb up the old twisted trunk of the climbing rose. These rats do have an extensive run consisting of about ground tracks and underground tunnels. There seem to be other rats living under boulders/large rocks. We have also designed an overgrown native shrub garden, boulders etc, perfect habitat for rodents, reptiles etc. I know there are snakes in this area. We have a large closed in cupboard in this area and when the door is opened you will see a large nest comprised of correa, grevillea and other native branches, twigs etc. There is a strong musk smell in this cupboard and my husband has seen a rat in there. About a year ago we discovered the rat had collected some small tomatoes and dried daisy flowers. I am noticing underground holes have become quite common and am concerned that we might be outnumbered before long. Recently found a mother with 9 fur less pups - she was in another area of the garden and had her nest under a sleeper. My concern is that there currently seem to be nests all over the place. Do my rats sound like our native type or do you think they might be black rats. And how do you think the numbers might drop off or even out?
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Discovery Centre 27 February, 2012 12:44

Hi Coral - we would need to see a specimen in order for us to provide an identification; the Black Rat Rattus rattus and the two most commonly encountered native rats (R. lutreolus and R. fuscipes) have some degree of burrowing habits, however it is worth noting that the natives are markedly less commensal in habits (i.e., they shy away from human habitations), so on the basis of this it is likely you are describing the introduced Black Rat.

If you are able to get a photograph to us (which you can send us via the "Contact Us" link at the bottom of this page), we will be happy to suggest a more definitive identification if possible.

Hope this helps

Kyla Villa 26 January, 2012 11:31
Thank you for this site, it is very helpful.
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Discovery Centre 14 January, 2012 15:46
Hi Johanna - both native Swamp Rats Rattus lutreolus and the introduced Black Rat Rattus rattus are known for making a network of tunnels, however Swamp Rats prefer to shy away from densly inhabited areas like St Kilda and Black Rats would thrive in suburban areas - we can't be certain without seeing them first-hand, but we think it more likely the culprits are Black Rats. If you have a chance to photograph one, send it in to us via 'Contact Us' at the bottom of this page and we will try to identify it for you
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Johanna 11 January, 2012 09:37
Hello, We live in St Kikda East and have discover a tunnel in our small native garden. It is 10cm diameter and travels more than 1 1/2 feet under ground (we are too afraid to check any further). It was covered up with tan bark and only discovered when we went to plant something. We left the hole exposed and over the next two evenings it was received with leaves and tan bark. Would black rats create this? Thank you for your time.
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Discovery Centre 23 December, 2011 12:12

Hi Jo - to make a full identification we would need to see images of the animal in question, however it is worth noting that the native Bush and Swamp Rats are known from the Newcastle area, as are the introduced Black and Brown Rats. The tail length to body ratio you mentioned may indicate that you have one of the native species, however a formal identification can't be made without clear images. If you have pictures, fel free to send them to us via "Contact Us" at the bottom of this page and we will do our best to help.

Hope this helps

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jo 20 December, 2011 19:56
Hi I have discovered 2 small brown rats living in my compost bin. They have shorter tails than a normal rat ( we have pet rats too..) Are bush rats found in Newcastle NSW or do we have plain brown rats?
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Discovery Centre 20 December, 2011 10:59

Hi Heather - I'm not sure we are the right place to offer help; we may be able to identify the animal if you can send us images, but to offer help in saving it you would better placed contacting an animal rescue service such as Sydney Wildlife, who have a rescue service via their website at http://www.sydneywildlife.org.au/

Hope this helps

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Heather 20 December, 2011 08:20
Hi, This morning I have awoken to find a small creature huddled on the top of my lounge. It is hardly moving and does not appear to be afraid. It has a rotund body, light grey bushy fur, long whiskers, round bulgy eyes but the tail is longer than the length of its body. It would only be about 7cms in its huddled state. We have a family of bush rat in our flame trees (they love the pods) and this looks similar but I'm not sure what to do with it. I'm not sure if it's sick or it's a baby or maybe because they are nocturnal, it has lost energy? It was peculiar the way it just sat on the top of the couch as we hovered inspecting it and gently prodding. It just remained unperturbed, occasionally shifting but was very docile. I live in the eastern suburbs of Sydney so I don't know where to go for help. Help!!
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Discovery Centre 17 December, 2011 10:20

Hi Kyra,

Unfortunately the Discovery Centre cannot provide an identification of the rat with your description. If possible, take a photograph of the rat and submit it through our identification website. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Kyra 16 December, 2011 19:35
Hi, I'm confused as to whether we have black rat or a bush rat living in our backyard hedge.We live in the Adelaide foothills at Newton. It has a fluffy brown coat and it's body is quite rotund and measures about 15cm long. It has a mouse-like face with a short nose, small rounded ears, it's straight tail is the same length as it's body. It grazes on our lawn at night, burrowing it's nose deep into the grass, and looks like it is eating the grass shoots/roots. It's not a possum, We have had a normal rat in the yard as well and this particular one looks entirely different.
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Discovery Centre 11 November, 2011 16:59

Hello Brielle

Bush Rats are not kept as pets, their diet and habits are poorly suited to being kept in captiviy. For many native species of mammal a permit is required, you can learn more on this document published by the DSE http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/119053/Application-for-a-Private-Wildlife-Licence-v11-1.pdf

Give a Bush Rat is very similar in appearance to other closely related rodents that are commonly kept as pets such as Black Rats, you may want to consider this as an alternative.

Hope this helps

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brielle 9 November, 2011 20:23
hey, iv been looking at bush rats on the internet and have been looking for a little pet lately, is it possible to buy a bush rat as a pet from a store or off the internet? thanks :)
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Discovery Centre 19 September, 2011 15:23
Hi Marg - while the Bush Rat Rattus fuscipes have been recorded the Great Western Region, they can be occasionally confused with the introduced Black Rat Rattus rattus which are also known from the area and are especially abundant this year. Unlike Black Rats, Bush Rats are native rodents with variable colour that could be similar to the animals you describe, although it is of course impossible to provide an identification without seeing a photograph,. It is also worth noting that Bush Rats are generally non-commensal, and as such are rarely associated with human habitation.

You can find out lists of mammals found in any particular part of Victoria by using our Bioinformatics site at http://flyaqis.mov.vic.gov.au/cgi-bin/texhtml?form=bio_mammviccom; simply select the grid which includes your area/s of interest and search to find listings of the mammal records in your area.

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marg marshall 15 September, 2011 07:30
I have been away from my Great Western home for some weeks and returned to find a well established colony of bush rats. Their tunnelling has effectively killed the plants they are tunnelling under. I am inclined to remove the plants which are now straggly, dead and unsightly but is their cover? To what extent should i encourage or deter them?
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Discovery Centre 29 August, 2011 10:15

Hi Michelle - yes, the Black Rat Rattus rattus does indeed build extensive shallow burrow systems, as does The Swamp Rat Rattus lutreolus and Bush Rat Rattus fuscipes. The burrow alone doesn't help identify which animal made it, unfortunately - if you ever see one of the inhabitants, you can use the information here to identify which type of rat you have.

Hope this helps

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Michelle 28 August, 2011 23:23
Do black rats make underground tunnels/burrows, or is it more liklely to be bush rats? Digging in the garden today i stuck my hand into a tunnel under the garden, as wide as my arm, and going in a couple of directions???
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Discovery Centre 26 August, 2011 15:45

Hi Sabrina - there are a few issues here; there is a distinction between protected and threatened/endangered species, and the responsibility of the land developers in this case differs greatly depending on which description applies to these animals. All native vertebrates are 'protected' to a degree (in that they are not an introduced pest species), whereas threatened/endangered species have a far greater degree of protection via the Flora and Fauna Gurantee Act.

From your description they could also possibly be Swamp Rats, which is another native Rat species, however neither of these are considered endangered and are not on the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act. We suggest you contact the Department of Sustainability and Environment via http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/ regarding what rodents are on teh Flora and Fauna Guranatee Act.

Hope this helps

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Sabrina Kingsley 25 August, 2011 19:25
Hello, recently my husband and I come across a city of Bush Rat burrows. I've been told by our Surf Coast Shire that these are a protected species and it's illegal to harm them. Now, also where they have nested, it will be sub-divided early next year for 11 new homes. We have been told that these dwellings are still going ahead regardless of the Bush Rats. Your opinion would be greatly appreciated. Kind regards Sabrina Kingsley
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Discovery Centre 20 July, 2011 14:48

Hi Matt. Predators of bush rats are introduced vertebrate species such as cats and foxes, however they appear to be doing quite well as their CSIRO conservations status is ‘lower risk’. An interesting article in Journal of Applied Ecology by P Banks Vol 36 Issue 6 Dec 1999, describes research where foxes were removed from bush rat territory and yet it made no significant difference to the population. Their major threats  appear to be loss of coastal habitat due to land clearing, or excessive wildfires. Encroachment on their habitat by other animals, such as the Black Rat, is also a potential threat to them.

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Matt 18 July, 2011 12:13
Hi, Just wondering if there are any major threats and/or predators to this species??
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Kris Johnston 11 July, 2011 12:19
We have multiple burrows in the garden under violets that have thrived this year due to the rain. I thought they were bushrats but now wonder if they are introduced rats. I haven't seen any. We live in Mt Martha and you say bush rats are not found down here. Should we get rid of them if they are common rats? Regards, Kris.
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Jorda 1 July, 2011 21:20
We are located in the south western area of Victoria. We have a large family of bush rats that are taking over the garden, unfortunately their tunnel systems are digging up the roots of small plants and shrubs, we are very concerned about the damage they are doing to the garden. What do you suggest we do? They are not black rats as they are quite cute, short in the body and tail and appear shy creatures.
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Discovery Centre 7 June, 2011 16:02

Hi Phred, I think its important to know exactly what species of Rat you are describing here; there is a possibility that you may have Black Rats Rattus rattus rather than Bush Rats Rattus fuscipes. As a rule, Bush Rats are not regarded as commensal and as such are unlikely to persist with invading human habitations if their preferred food of forest-dwelling arthropods and plant tissue is in good supply. Also, the colouration you described isn't a relaible guide to distinguish a Bush Rat from a Black Rat, as both are highly variable in colour.

When next you see one, check if the tail of the Rat is longer than the rest of the animal's body, and if it has protruding round ears, if so it is most likely a Black Rat. Alternatively, feel free to send us any photos if you have a chance and we can identify it ; just use the "Contact Us" link at the bottom of this page

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Phred 5 June, 2011 14:26
We in Central Victoria have for years had the company of Australian Bush Rats in the house. How they get in is mystery, but despite blocking all obvious openings, they still do, and the amount of fruit and bread they eat is astounding. We caught a baby bush rat in a humane mouse trap recently, and it virtually filled it. It had the typical round ears, short tail, was grey/brown with a pale grey underbelly, the colour extending beneath it's tail. I released it immediately I found it and it zipped off into the bush. Despite our attempts at denying them an overnight feed, we usually find something chewed next morning. They appear to be meticulously clean as there are no signs of droppings anywhere. They're great little creatures, but how do we stop them from utilising our hospitality?
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Michelle 27 May, 2011 12:15
Hi there, We have been overseas for 3 weeks & come home to find a visitor in our house. At first we thought it was a black rat as our next door neighbour told us on our return that they had rats breeding in some weedy growth over a pile of bricks down the back yard, and that their dog had killed a few. We set out to trap the rat but when I spotted it one night under the lounge I was confused, as I've seen black rats before, and this one seemed much cuter! Small round ears, big eyes, light brown furry body that it kept huddled/rounded, rather than the sleek body lines of mice & rats. It has had a knaw at some hazelnut chocolate I left out one night, and some glazed donuts that were wrapped in plastic! We have also had our telephone wire chewed through while we were away. Having said all that, we naturally assumed it was a black rat, however the other night just on dark my son saw one on the grass in the back yard, so we turned on the back yard light and counted 4-5 of them on the grass, happily foraging in the grass and gardens appearing to be eating grass roots. They stayed for a while, and then something scared them and they 'bounded' off (with a bit of a hop). Last night, my husband found one curled up under our TV cabinet, and believes it matches exactly the photo you have on this site for a bush rat. They have also been getting in through a large hole in my son's bedroom cupboard between the wall & the floorbaords where there is no skirting board. We are confused. Do we possibly have both bush rats and black rats? We live in Lake Macquarie near Newcastle NSW, and have a native wetland area and creek not too far away. We have also had bandicoots in our yard the last 2 summers. Can you help us know what we may be hosting in our yard, and whether we should be trying to remove them from the house? Thank-you!
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Discovery Centre 27 April, 2011 15:42

Don - without knowing if the animal in question is a native or introduced rodent, it is difficult to know what to suggest. One idea might be to relocate the birdseed feeding station away from the car to make it a less convenient feeding spot for the animals in question.

It is worth noting that native rats such as Bush Rats and Swamp Rats generally have more particular diets than introduced rats and mice; and are not renowned for varying their diet from native plants, etc. Wiring is only likely to be chewed by any rodent when all other food resources are exhausted.

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Don 24 April, 2011 16:50
My wife appears to have either a bush rat or mouse in the engine compartment of her nearly new car,We have found husks from sunflower seed,(which we feed to our native birds)and small droppings,all found on top of the engine.Any suggestions as how to get them to vacate, for we fear they may nibble the wiring next,
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Rob 14 April, 2011 22:35
We live at SheOaks half way between Geelong and Ballarat and have had 2 bush rats in the house over the week they are excactly as described with a tail approx 1.5-2 times the length of the body and a soft coat longer and short nose as pictured above. We think they have been driven in by the recent burn offs in the local fields in preparation for this seasons crops. In both instance they have wondered into the lounge area and been in no major rush, even pausing to watch us and TV before we caught and relocated them outside. Lovely little critters that I'm happy to have here but just not in the house.
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Discovery Centre 18 March, 2011 14:00

Hi Ian, we have asked the Collection Manager of Ornithology and Mammalogy and he thinks what you have heard may have been a rat. This noise is often uttered if distressed, such as when caught by a predator (cat, dog, snake...) or trapped.  Maybe the animal in question had been injured and was reacting in relation to this.

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Discovery Centre 17 March, 2011 14:41
Hi Bronwyn, we would strongly suggest that if the rat was found in the garden then it would be the introduced Black Rat rather than a bush rat. As such you can certainly keep it if they wish. Rats do make good pets but live only 2-3 years. If kept in clean quarters they should not be a health problem. The best bet though would be to purchase a rat with known history from a reputable pet shop.
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bronwyn 14 March, 2011 20:38
hi we me and my brother found a little bush rat in the garden ,just wondered weather you are allowed to keep them and if they are safe to touch etc ..do they usaully hang around by them selves or if there would be more around
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Ian 12 March, 2011 12:40
I heard a persistent wheezing squeeking call last night and thought a snake had a bird. When I put the outside light on I saw a rat wandering along a garden sleeper having a good old sing along, like a mating call. Is this a Bush rat? I've never heard anything like it!
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Discovery Centre 12 February, 2011 12:17

Hi Kim, all rats, both introduced and native have the hopping ability. If it was in an urban area such as mentioned here the animal would be either the introduced Black Rat or the introduced Brown Rat.

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Kim 8 February, 2011 10:40
I recently saw a medium grey, rat like creature in a Sandringham garden. It distinctly hopped across the garden, like a miniature kangaroo. Could this be a bush rat? Or do black and brown rats have a hopping gait if they are in a hurry?
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Discovery Centre 22 December, 2010 09:18
Hi Lauren, the best thing is to contact the Lort Smith Animal Hospital here who may be able to assist you. Good Luck.
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Lauren 18 December, 2010 00:22
Hello. Unfortunately my cat-despite her bells-has managed to take a baby-we think-native rat from their nest and now the rat cannot find its way home. The rat is dark brown with patches of white in colour, has round ears and a tail approx. the size of its body. We released it where we spotted our cat playing with it (about 10m of rough terrain from our house) and it has returned and seems to be doing circles, lost. The rat is uninjured and I would really like to know how we can take care of it until such a time we can take it to the vet for further instruction. Unfortunately the vet does not open for another week. Please help me: how do I save this creature?
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Discovery Centre 28 October, 2010 13:25
Hi Ann, the staff in the mammal department believe based on your description that your colony may be the introduced black rat rather than bush rats. If you are able to get a photo of one of the animals please feel free to send it through to discoverycentre@museum.vic.gov.au and our staff can try and confirm this for you. 
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Ann Lambourn 27 October, 2010 20:03
I have what I believe to be a colony of Native Bush Rats in my garden. I live in a rural area in a quite setting. They have almost destroyed a large part of my garden with tunnels, mounds of earth and eaten the roots from several plants causing them to die. I understand they are cute and harmless (I have watched one feeding on a fallen grapefruit) but how can I get rid of them?
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Luke 21 October, 2010 13:34
Hi, I believe I have one of these living off our compost in the backyard in the Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne. Every day i open the lid of the bin to find it in there. It would have to be at least 20cm (b4 tail). It is a beautiful looking thing! I comes back for food every day.
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Discovery Centre 19 September, 2010 11:33
Hi Ross - We'd love to help you out with an identification, so please feel free to contact us through the form on our Identifications page, attaching one of the photos you've taken, and we'll pass it on to our Mammalogy team.
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Ross Burriss 17 September, 2010 15:13
I have several small colonies of bush rat on my property on the Mornington Peninsula,yet your web site says not found here. I have taken several photos and am sure they are not black rats.Short tail and small round ears. Your coments would be appreciated
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Discovery Centre 7 September, 2010 11:59

Hi Mary Anne, unfortunately Curators and Collection Managers require an image or specimen in order to provide accurate identifications.  Next time you see the critter in the garden, see if you  can take a photo, you can then email it in to us here in the Discovery Centre.

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Mary Anne 6 September, 2010 10:27
Hi I live in Ivanhoe Vic close to the Darebin Creek and the Darebin Parklands. I noticed something moving in my garden and traced it back to a hole under the fence to a neglected part of my neighbours overgrown garden.It looks like the native rat in your picture with cute rounded features. It was relocating a dried-out nectarine nut found in the compost spread in my garden. The body size was only about 70mm so does not fit with your description of a bush rat? What do you think? A bush rat or a mouse? Kind regards Mary Anne
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Ross 27 August, 2010 11:36
Hi. We have a family of Bush Rats living in a stone block wall in our back yard. They have been digging huge burrows under and in the wall. I have seen large mounds of dirt and small stones used as filler between the large stones in the wall. I think we need to get rid of these cute little critters. What is the most humane way of doing this? I am worried about permanent damage to the large wall and the plants? I would appreciate any assistance you can give us. Thanks
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Discovery Centre 12 August, 2010 11:42

Hello, Olivia. We referred your enquiry to the relevant Collection Manager who requested a photograph of the animal to offer a positive ID. This can be done via at our Ask the Experts page. Even without a photograph the Collection Manager suspects that the animal is not a native bush rat, as the animal you mention has a paler belly and is active about the residue food left for the possums.

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Olivia 8 August, 2010 05:29
Hi there! I work at a house for people with disabilities in the Knox region of Vic. We have a very active and healthy family of brush tailed possums and a singular ring tailed possum on our property that we have provided housing and food for following the destruction of their natural habitat. In recent months we have noticed one or two rats that have been eating the possum food (mainly the oats/grains/dried fruit rather than bread or fresh fruit, but not exclusively) and tonight I got to have a good, rather than fleeting, look at it. It is perhaps 2/3's of the length of the Black rats I see alot of in Menzies creek, and the tail was approx 2/3's of it's body length again. It was a pale brown colour with pale creamy belly. It's face was much shorter than a black rat with very round snout and ears. It was very timid and dissappeared down the water spout when spooked. Does this sound like a Bush rat to you? If they do not come indoors, do we need to be concerned or are we able to let it live in peace? I am intruiged as you have said in one of the other posts that they are not in Croydon, which is not that far from us, yet it did not appear to match the description of a brown rat either... Kind regards
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Marjorie 20 July, 2010 12:52
The family of rats that lives in the roof of my house in North Balwyn Vic would seem to be black rats but two things puzzle me about them. Firstly, when I observed ,through the window, one sitting in the branch of a camellia tree daintily eating a flower, I noticed that its ears were very rounded and not thin and its tail was probably not longer than its body. Secondly,on their nightly visits to my kitchen they attack any fruit,vegetable or nuts, but clearly have no interest in fat. Even when I have been careful to remove all vegetable matter there has been absolutely no evidence that they had visited a readily accessible pan containing fat and meat juices. These rats are very shy and usually I watch them through glass. In autumn they relished my grapes and figs. Everything seems to point to their being black rats, but their timidity, ears, fur and diet. Could they be Bush Rats?
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Discovery Centre 29 June, 2010 15:11

Hi Janine, our Collection Manager for Mammalogy thinks this is an interesting observation. The fact that they were seen digging and the size almost certainly removes any local Antechinus from the equation, and the size, notes on ears shape and tail length removes the introduced Black Rat. This leaves us with any local native rats; the commonest and most expected are the Bush Rat and the Swamp Rat. These can be separated by, amongst various subtle features, the colour of the feet - dark in the latter species and pale in the former. From what you say I would suspect that they were Bush Rats. These mammals are like other rats in that while principally nocturnal they are known to occasionally leave shelter during the day in search of foods. Had a size not been mentioned and they were larger then another animal for consideration, and a well known hole digger, is the bandicoot.

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Janine 28 June, 2010 23:48
We've just spent a weekend at Skene's Creek near Apollo Bay, where we were entertained by two small animals which we initially thought were introduced rats, but came to realise were probably bush rats. They were similar to rattus rattus in size, medium brown in colour, with round ears and tails slightly shorter than their bodies. They were quite shy, but emerged from dense low shrubbery to feed on the lawn in the early mornings and late afternoons. They seemed to be digging for food, and inspection later revealed a number of small shallow holes. Could they be bush rats, which I thought were nocturnal?
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Discovery Centre 7 June, 2010 16:20

Hi Kim. It would be great if you could send an image for us to send to our experts. Please submit your photo and description through our Identifications page.

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debra 6 June, 2010 14:58
We have many colonies of bush rats living in our "wild" native garden.they have multiple underground burrows with many entry holes & lots of fresh diggings daily.TRhey move from place to place in our garden depending on the groundcover.unfortunately they discoversed my raised vegee patch & ate everything edible in it especially loving the spuds & carrots & then moved onto the butternuts.Now they have burrowed under the vines;anywhere ther are lots of weeds/cover.I know of 2 other people living within 30 kms. that also have bush rats.I dont have any outside cats & this is probably why they like my garden[other than the weeds ,that is] I live just north of Mt Gambier SA
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Discovery Centre 21 July, 2010 14:30

 

Hi Marjorie - As the common vernacular suggests the Bush Rat is an inhabitant of bushy areas, they will not enter and especially live in human dwellings.  Rats in general have an excellent climbing ability so that can’t be used as an indication of species identification. The tail length and ear shape and size should be good ways to identify the species concerned, although I am rather thoughtful of the Black Rat in your instance.  Should you still be troubled as to the species is it possible to take an image of the rat and send it through to the Discovery Centre for identification.

 

Rob 10 June, 2010 12:17
Kim!, your rat might be a bandicoot!!! - look up a picture of it on Google. They dig conical holes, looking for insects. They are fantastic to have around as they eat spiders!
Kim 6 June, 2010 09:22
A few weeks ago I was in the garden with my dog at night bringing in firewood when my dog started going crazy around the BBQ. My husband lifted the lid and found what he first thought was a ringtail possum but on further inspection realised it was a rat that had been cornered by the dog. It was about the length of his handspan and had a long tail. It managed to get away but now I have found huge diggings in my garden. Under the lime tree was almost completely hollowed out (even though it is in a pot) and then I found another hole where all of the roots of the plants were hollowed out. There are other small holes all around the garden. It is making quite a mess and is probably doing damage to all of the plants at the same time. (I have a photo if you need it). The digging seems to be happening at night as we have the dog inside. I know that the holes aren't dug by the dog as they are too meticulous around the roots!! Since we live 6 doors down from the National Park in Ferntree Gully and living next to a vacant block, we thought it may have been some sort of bush rat. However, after reading some of the comments it seems that perhaps it's not. If not, what type of animal could it be and how can we get rid of it/relocate it out of our garden without hurting the many possums, lizards and echidnas living in our yard?
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Discovery Centre 10 May, 2010 15:08

Hi David - The Museum's Mammalogist inclined to think that the animal you have noticed is the Black Rat.  He has advised Bush Rats rarely if ever attend human settlement preferring the natural bush.  Since the standard texts do not give a precise indication of where these rodents place their nest it is difficult to get an accurate idea of its placement.  Needless to say if the indications are that these rats do not frequent habitation then it can also be assumed that they do not breed there.  Rats generally are very fast developers, a seemingly defenceless and blind individual could be out running and feeding quite independently  a day or two later; also the female could move the lot if she considers that danger threatens. We hope this information helps!

.

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David Fry 10 May, 2010 09:44
I have been clearing out our woodshed recently at our place in the Dandenongs. Under an old piece of chipboard I discovered a nest of bush rats (the nest looked much like a birds nest!), the mother fled to the back of the shed after I lifted the board and revealed 7 babies. They were very cute, with short shiny grey fur and long dark tails, they stayed close to the nest and had their eyes closed most of the time. I placed the board back after a short time and checked them a few days later and they were all still there. I am making this shed into a shelter for two lambs we are getting so not sure how they will go co-existing, should I move them or will they move on to another area once they grow old enough? We are getting the lambs in 4-6 weeks. Thanks David
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ellen evans 22 April, 2010 12:12
We live in Coleraine in the southern Grampians and we found a colony of native bush rats in our garden and were not sure what they were so we contacted the wildlife officer in our area and they confirmed they are bush rats and are quite harmless and protected so now we just leave them in peace.
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Sandra Dilley 7 April, 2010 12:06
We have a family of Bush Rats or possibly Marsupial Mice living in our back garden in Edithvale. They climb the ferns,hop and are very shy with humans. Grey coloured, tail about the same size as the body and with round ears. Will send a photo for id.
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Liz Callow 16 March, 2010 16:11
Hi, I think we have a colony of bush rats in Rosedale vic at our home. In the garden have discovered what appears to be a mound in the ground with a birrow going into it. We have also noticed a lot of tunnels going a fair distance in all directions probably about 2 cm under te top soil and lots of holes also going into the ground under fence posts and tree roots. Have not sighted a thing but can tell there is activity going on with the way the dirt is dug and new holes appear. Can't find any rat droppings so have ruled out the pest rat,and whatever it is is feed on roots and bulbs off onion weed. Can you give me an idea as to what we are dealing with and wether they are vermin or will move away without doing too much damage..Thanks
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Discovery Centre 15 February, 2010 14:59

Hi Jack and Sam – Museum Victoria offers a free identification service and it would be great if you are able to send us your photos of the rat you saw at Mount Martha. Please read our identification guidelines before submitting your request. We look forward to seeing your pictures!

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Jack & Sam Lundberg 15 February, 2010 08:18
We found what appears to be a bush rat that has unfortunately died in our swimming pool. It has a tail about 1/3 of it's body size, it has yellow paired teeth and a lovely bushy coat. However, we live in Mt Martha (Mornington Peninsula) and we have read they are absent here. Could it be a bush rat? Mum took some photos if you would like to see them. Thanks, Jack & Sam.
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Discovery Centre 1 February, 2010 16:16

Hi Robyn. Unfortunately this is not a Bush Rat hole. In suburban Croydon the Bush Rat is absent and they appear to totally avoid human settlement. The hole you have seen was most likely dug by one of the introduced rats, that is one of the Black or Brown Rats.  These rats dig holes up to 90 mm diameter, they can climb and will eat almost anything available. Contrary to their name, these rats may be of a varied colour especially about the belly and chest.

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Robyn Campbell 31 January, 2010 11:24
My partner was out on the deck at about 7.15 p.m. last night (suburban Croydon, Vic). He saw a small, furry creature run (scurry) about a metre and then pop down a hole it (or something) had dug. Hole is about 100mm across. A bush rat? Do they dig holes? Thanks.
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Discovery Centre 29 January, 2010 16:49

Hello! Given the location, a rat with a tail as long as, or longer than, its body is almost certainly an introduced Black Rat, rattus rattus. Despite the name, these rats can vary a great deal in terms of colouring, from a light brown to black.

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Lesley Winning 28 January, 2010 19:53
We think we have a bush rat nesting in an ivy plant on our side fence. But it's snout is much longer than the photo we saw on this site. The body is a fawn brown and the tail is at least as long as the body. The body might be about 15 cm (6") excluding the tail. It's very cute and we hope there is a family. Can you confirm it is a type of bush rat? If not, what could it be? We live in Beaumaris, Victoria, about 250 m from the beach and 30 m from a native park.
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Val Davis 17 January, 2010 10:34
I live on the Western Port side of Mornington Peninsula, and yesterday spotted what I thought was a bush rat sitting in the daylight under a fruit tree. It was a light brown colour with a white underbelly, the tail was as long as the body. It hopped off into the paddock into long grass. Would this be a native rat? I have read they are not found on the Mornington Peninsula. Thank you.
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Discovery Centre 2 November, 2009 14:51

Hi Rod - The information in our infosheet, and a similar one from the Australian Museum here would indicate that the bush rat's diet includes fungi, grasses, fruits, seeds and insects, with no mention of bird eggs. This press release from Taronga Zoo states that "[the bush rat] doesn't climb trees to raid bird's nests[...]".

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Rod 2 November, 2009 07:46
Hi there, I was reading scientists are planning to release Bush Rats around sydney, it appears they will control black rats first and then the more dominant Bush Rats will prevent Black Rats returning. My question is "apart from the saving of an endangered native species ie: the bush rat, which is a good thing to do, are there any forest ecosystem advantages of changing the dominant rat species" for instance do bush rats not eat birds eggs and newly hatched chicks the way black rats do.
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Discovery Centre 29 October, 2009 11:09

Hi Steph. We have had a chat to our Coordinator, Live Exhibits and Forest Gallery about the babies. He recommends that you get in touch with Territory Wildlife Park, which isn't far from you. They will be familiar with the mammals of the area and the care required if they are a native species. Good luck with the babies!

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Steph Rose 27 October, 2009 23:21
I found 6 babies, eyes still closed, but with fur in an underground burrow. I have had them Vet checked but as yet we don't know what they are. I have bred mice & seen baby rats, but these little critters don't look like either to me. I live in the Southern suburbs of Darwin & am currently trying to syringe feed my new babies. Any hints, tips & clues would be muchly apprreciated. My guys have a head shaped like a rat but with a shorter snout & of a flatter appearance & rather short stubby toes. I hope I can keep them alive to maturity & find out exactly what species they are. kind regards Steph ;-)
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Discovery Centre 5 October, 2009 12:33

Hi Deb - We checked with our Mammalogy collection manager, and he says that whilst there is no precise data, domesticated rats live on average 2 years, and it is expected that bush rats would have a similar lifespan.

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Deb Bowen-Saunders 3 October, 2009 19:38
What average age does a bush rat male live? We have a very tame one that visits us?
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Discovery Centre 10 September, 2009 11:40

Hello, Heidi. What an interesting encounter! However, according to this webpage at the Australian Museum, it is highly unlikely that the droppings in your ceiling come from a native species. The native rat probably scampered off to some other home - closer to the ground. Hope this helps!

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Heidi 9 September, 2009 15:20
I live in the forest in The Dandenong Ranges. The other day I nearly stepped on a large, furry rat which was sitting in broad daylight on my doorstep. It moved out of my way but just sat huddled in the corner within full view for several minutes, until I hustled it away with my broom. The rat looked almost like a small possum and it has since occurred to me that it was a native rat and I'm wondering why it was sitting in my doorway in broad daylight. I have just had possums removed from my roof and apparently there are a lot of rat dropping up there - perhaps there are more native rats living in my roof?
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Discovery Centre 30 July, 2009 15:27

Hi Luisa. Authoritative information about how to deal with native species in the home can be found on the Native Plant Plants and Animals pages of the Department of Sustainability and Environment website. Enjoy!

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Luisa 16 July, 2009 11:44
Hi there, I found what I think is a bush rat in the back of our pantry. I live in the Sunshine Coast hinterland Qld. It scampered away quickly and looked like a large mouse rather than a city rat. Can I assume it will leave by itself and just came in for a look around or should I use some method of capture. If so how do you suggest I catch it? Thanks, Luisa
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Discovery Centre 9 July, 2009 14:53

Hi there, thanks for your question – I’ve referred your question to the Museum’s Collection Manager for Birds & Mammals for his advice – we’ll get back to you soon with some more information.

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Tim Farley 6 July, 2009 18:27
The information provided on your website describes native rats as unlikely to inhabit buildings and is also unlikely to breed in winter. We have discovered what appears to be a bush rat in a gap in the wall of our bathroom in Monbulk. It also appears to be pregnant. Is this highly unlikely given the season and where can I find traps suitable for capture and release?
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michele Davison 23 June, 2009 20:05
I found a sick rat in my suburban Melbourne backyard (Williamstown) It was clearly different to an ordinary rat. So I took it to the vet. The vet said it was a native bush rat. Is it unusual to find these animals in suburban Melbourne?
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Gemma 27 May, 2009 23:37
We live in Western Port (Mornington Peninsula), which is fairly bushy, and I beleive we have a family of bush rats living in the dense greenery covering our fence.
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Discovery Centre 14 May, 2009 12:49
Dear Bernadette - yes, bush rats jump. In fact, all rodents are excellent jumpers!
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Bernadette Kennedy 13 May, 2009 13:45
I think I had a bush rat in my roof, I caught it with a cage as I thought it was a possum, this rat was cute and jumped around alot, do bush rats jump??? I let it go in our local city gardens.
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May Wilson 10 April, 2009 11:28
I think we have a family of bush rats in our back yard. We live in Edithvale Vic. We found one & I fear that we may have poisoned the family thinking they were ordinary rats. The one we found is very quiet & has some blood around its mouth. Can I nurse it back to health? Are they ok to have in the garden?
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