Rufous Bettong - Reptile Encounters

Rufous Bettong

Scientific name:

Aepyprymnus rufescens

Other names:

Rufous Rat-kangaroo


Locally common (northern population). Population along Murray River now regionally extinct.

Largest member of the rat-kangaroo family, reaching a head-body length of 39cm and up to another 39cm of tail, and a weight of 2.5-3.5kg. Fur is shaggy and bristly; upperparts are grey with a distinct rufous tinge that makes them appear almost pink, underparts grey, and a faint white stripe on the hips. Tail grey-brown, sometimes with a white tip. Muzzle is short and lightly furred, ears are relatively long. Ring of bare, pink skin around the eyes.

Grassy coastal forest and dry, open forest.

Coastal and subcoastal NSW and QLD, from north of Newcastle, NSW to Cooktown, Qld, and inland to 300km west of Townsville. Formally in the Murray Valley in NSW and Vic.

Tubers and underground fungi make up a bulk of the diet. Also consumes grases, herbs, sedge stem, seeds and insect larvae.

Strongly nocturnal and mostly solitary, although a male may accompany one or two females. During the day, it sleeps in a cone-shaped nest built over a shallow excavation, often at the base of a tussock. The nest is lined with soft, dry grass and has an entrance. Soft grass is replaced often and older grass is pushed up into the roof of the cone with the bettong’s nose.

Breeding occurs throughout the year, once the female has reached maturity, generally at 11 months. The male reaches maturity between 12 and 13 months. If a female is not receptive to a male, she will roll onto her side and kick at him whilst emitting a chainsaw-like growl used to indicate aggression. The gestation of the young is about 22–24 days. After the young are born, they live within the pouch for about 16 weeks. Once out of the pouch, the joey stays near the mother for about 7 weeks, while it gets used to fending for itself.

Distribution over their range is fairly discontinuous and probably determined by food and shelter availability. Extensive land clearing has reduced available habitat but even in partly wooded pastoral areas it can still be found in good numbers, although it is now considered regionally extinct from the Murray Valley, most likely due to land clearing and predation by the introduced fox.
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