In Victoria, almost all habitat suitable for Eastern Barred Bandicoots has been lost to grazing and agriculture. Further threats are posed by introduced predators – cats and foxes – that kill high numbers of bandicoots. The Victorian population of 150–200 animals only survives thanks to reintroductions and protective fences, but ongoing drought will significantly reduce the reproductive rate. This species is doing slightly better in Tasmania.
Amazing Eastern Barred Bandicoots
Eastern Barred Bandicoots are compact marsupials with long snouts and ears. Their brown and grey coats are marked with three or four off-white bands and they have whitish bellies and feet. They live a nocturnal, solitary life in grasslands that have dense tussocks and low scrub for shelter.
At night, Eastern Barred Bandicoots emerge from their nests to forage for food. They use their clawed front feet to dig up invertebrates such as beetle grubs and earthworms from the soil. They use their excellent sense of smell to locate food and also scavenge fallen fruit, fungi and even cat food.
Eastern Barred Bandicoots can reproduce very quickly. They can breed all year round, but breeding slows in summer and stops altogether during drought when food is scarce. Females give birth to three tiny young, which remain in their rear-opening pouches for eight or nine weeks and in the nest for a further two weeks before becoming independent. If conditions are good, a single female Eastern Barred Bandicoot can produce 16 young in a year. Young bandicoots suffer high mortality for reasons unknown, but potentially live for two or three years.
Victorian captive breeding programs have been run since the 1980s. In Tasmania, Eastern Barred Bandicoots are faring much better than in Victoria, mostly due to the absence of foxes.