Caring for bandicoots
Read more about rescuing and releasing animals in the Northern Territory (NT).
You need a permit to care for injured or rescued wildlife.
There are two species of bandicoot in the NT.
The golden bandicoot (Isoodon auratus) is endangered in the NT and vulnerable nationally.
The northern brown bandicoot (Isoodon macrourus) is listed as near threatened in the Territory.
If you see either of these bandicoots, report it to Parks and Wildlife immediately.
Bandicoots should be housed in a quiet, secure location away from family pets and excessive noise.
This includes general household noise, traffic, domestic animals and construction noise.
Bandicoots must be housed individually as they are solitary and often aggressive. If paired wrongly, bandicoots will kill each other and eat their young.
Orphaned young bandicoots
Keep orphaned young in a secure, insulated box lined with material to provide a nest.
Keep the temperature at a constant 28 degrees Celsius to 30 degrees Celsius.
Adult bandicoots can be housed in enclosures with minimum dimensions of 4m long by 4m wide by 2m high.
Enclosures should be secure at the bottom so the bandicoot can’t escape.
When trying to escape, bandicoots can hurt themselves on enclosure wire.
To prevent this, create a visual barrier around the inside of the enclosure with shade cloth or similar material at the height of the bandicoot standing on its hind legs.
The floor covering can be sand, soil or similar, as long as it drains well and doesn’t compact.
The sand or soil should be about 200mm deep and covered with vegetation, branches, hollow logs and tussocks.
It’s important that there’s plenty of leaf litter in the enclosure to encourage natural behaviours by letting the bandicoot dig nesting areas and forage. Concrete or wire flooring can damage the animal’s feet.
The enclosure must provide protection against extreme weather, particularly heat and rain. One third of the enclosure should be covered. Remove all uneaten food and faeces from the enclosure daily.
Food and water
Bandicoots are solitary, nocturnal foragers with a keen sense of smell to help them find food buried underground, such as earthworms and the larva of scarab beetles, which feed on grass roots.
As well as a supply of insects, bandicoots can be fed Wombaroo Insectivore mix-coated minced meat and small pieces of fruits and vegetables like apple, banana and sweet potato.
You can also offer pinkie mice and good quality dog kibble that has been soaked first.
In the wild, bandicoots are omnivorous and eat a range of foods such as insects and other invertebrates, bulbs, grasses and fungi.
Northern brown bandicoots will also eat worms, snails, larvae, frogs, seeds and mosses.
How to feed orphaned young
Orphaned bandicoots need to be fed a special milk formula according to their growth stage.
There are three brands of formula on the market: Wombaroo, Biolac and Di-Vetelact. These are available from vet clinics, pet shops or directly from the manufacturers.
Wombaroo High Protein Supplement and fats like canola oil, to mimic the bandicoot’s naturally high milk fat, should be added to formula. Milk should be fed at 36 degrees Celsius.
How often to feed bandicoots
Very young unfurred joey bandicoots should be fed every two to three hours with a bottle or syringe.
Furred joeys should be fed five times per day.
Older furred animals will lap from a saucer.
At weaning age, reduce the number of feeds to two or three times per day and offer solids, too.
Bandicoots need fresh water daily. The water container needs to be heavy and wide-based so the bandicoot can't knock it over.
Capture and handling
Beware of a bandicoot’s back legs - they have a strong kick and sharp claws.
Bandicoots can be very unpredictable. Seemingly quiet bandicoots can lash out quickly with their hind legs.
The best way to capture and handle a bandicoot is to throw a towel or blanket over the animal.
Bandicoots don’t usually bite but use their hind legs, as when fighting other bandicoots.
Never hold a bandicoot by the tail in case the skin is stripped from the tail, this is known as degloving, or the hind legs, which can dislocate easily. They will also shed fur if held too tightly.
Bandicoots are known for throwing their young from the pouch during capture and handling. If the bandicoot is carrying young, tape the pouch closed when releasing into an enclosure and they will easily groom it off.
Calico bags or pillowcases are best for transporting bandicoots. They can also be transported in a pet pack with a towel or something similar to shelter under.
Enrichment is the set of things you can do to help animals regain natural behaviours to survive in the wild.
Bandicoots in the pre-release stage of rehabilitation need the right environment to encourage instinctive behaviour.
All of the following are enrichment strategies you should use to rehabilitate a northern brown bandicoot for release:
- growing native clumping grasses throughout the enclosure
- putting hollow logs on the ground to hide in
- scattering crickets, mealworms, woodies, seeds and nuts through the enclosure
- allowing leaf litter to accumulate for insects to hide/live in and bandicoots to forage in
- putting rotting tree trunks or logs along the ground to provide an environment for insects and foraging
- making adequate space to hunt
- keeping a water container on the ground.
How to tell if a bandicoot is ready for release
A bandicoot is ready to release back into the wild when it is showing the following behaviours:
- actively foraging and digging for food
- looking for insects under bark and behind structures such as logs
- active at night
- showing less abnormal behaviour, such as pacing, and more natural behaviours
- coping with change
- showing improved physical fitness.
Last updated: 27 August 2018