Brush-tailed Bettong - Reptile Encounters

Brush-tailed Bettong

Scientific name:

Bettongia penicillata ogilbyi

Other names:

Woylie (from indigenous name Walyu, Nyungar language), Brush-tailed Rat Kangaroo


Critically Endangered (<15,000 individuals)

The Brush-tailed Bettong is a small macropod in the Potoroid (rat-kangaroo) family. Adult males get to about 36cm and about 1.8kg, and females are slightly smaller. They have greyish-brown fur above with paler fur on their underside, and their tail darkens to black and has a distinctly brush-like appearance. Females have one (rarely two) joeys at a time and can breed year-round and can have up to 3 joeys per year depending on environmental conditions.

Woylies were known to inhabit a variety of habitats including semi-arid scrub, mallee, woodland and open forest. The species is now mostly restricted to dry sclerophyll forests and woodlands dominated by Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) and Wandoo (Eucalyptus wandoo) with an understorey of scrub or tussock grass and well drained, deep, sandy soils. Habitat considered critical to the species’ survival is the tall eucalypt forests and woodlands, dense myrtaceous shrublands, and kwongan (proteaceous) or mallee heath within its current range with adequate introduced predator control. They are considered an important ‘eco-engineer’ in their environment as their digging and foraging turns over topsoil, cycling nutrients, improving aeration and water infiltration.

At the time of European colonisation, Brush-tailed Bettongs inhabited much of southern Australia, from Western Australia through to the western plains of the Great Dividing Range in New South Wales and southern Queensland. Bettongia penicillata penicillata is now presumed extinct, whilst Bettongia penicillata ogilbyi is restricted to four remnant populations in southwest Western Australia – Dryandra Woodland, Kingston, Tutanning Nature Reserve and Perup Forest.

Mostly underground fungi (truffles), as well as tubers, bulbs, seeds, insects and resin from plants such as Hakea.. Their foraging also disperses seeds and fungal spores.

Once one of the most widespread mammal species on mainland Australia. The Brush-tailed bettong is now a critically endangered species. They spend their days hiding in an elaborate domed nest made of grass or shredded bark, built over a depression scraped in the ground under a bush or other source of cover. They use their tails to carry this nesting material to the right spot. From dusk till a few hours before dawn, it comes out to forage for food.

Males and females occupy different home ranges and each includes a nesting and feeding area. Breeding is continuous, with females first giving birth at around 6 months of age and then every 100 days or so for their 4 to 6 years of life in the wild. Young stay in the pouch for around 90 days and then stay in the nest with their mother until the next joey leaves the pouch, at which time it moves on.
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