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Habitat Ecology Information

What’s Lurking In Your Backyard? – #32 Common Wombat

This series looks at the variety of fauna that may be found in the suburban backyard or local reserve and the diversity may be surprising to some people. The obvious fauna are the vast array of birds that are readily seen by day and some by night, but there are numerous species that are nocturnal. Some of these nocturnal species people are familiar with as they tramp across the roof at night with what sounds like hobnail boots on, or they hear fighting in the backyard over food and territory. Others are cryptic and may only be seen infrequently when they enter the house for warmth and shelter. Each week or so I will highlight a different species that may be found in and around Melbourne’s backyards, parks and reserves, some may be familiar others less so.

#32 Common Wombat

(Vombatus ursinus)

Although not always seen wandering around the property there are always signs of their presence in the form of their trademark calling card atop a high point. The cuboid looking poos are quite distinctive. This in addition to scratching’s around the yard and perhaps a gap under the fence where they have tried or successfully pushed through is an indication of their presence on the property.

The Common Wombat is the only living member of its genus (Vombatus) with the other two wombat species belonging to the genus Lasiorhinus. The common wombat. like the other two species is a marsupial having the young develop in a pouch which in the case of the wombat is rear facing to avoid the pouch filling up with soil when burrowing.

The Common Wombat is a solitary and territorial species with each individual maintaining an established home range from which it lives and feeds. Primarily nocturnal arising from their burrows around sunset to graze on grasses, sedges and rushes.  They will feed for several hours before returning to the burrow. In some environments and periods of the year they may be seen during the day and this is often the case when they are struck down with mange.

Being nocturnal in nature and with a preference to grass they can often be found grazing along roadsides were they often come into contact with traffic resulting in death or serious injury. Care should always be taken driving at night in areas were wildlife frequent. If a wombat is hit by a car the animal should be checked to see if it is a female and carrying young in its pouch or not far behind on the road. Any young animals should be taken to a local wildlife carer or veterinarian.

The Common Wombat has few predators with the exception of wild dogs and foxes. If close to its burrow the wombat will retreat to it were it can defend itself by crushing a predator’s head against the roof or wall of the burrow using its powerful back legs and hard bony pelvis. They are also despite their appearance quite agile and can reach speeds of 40km/h over short distances.

The Common Wombat can be considered a pest in some areas and is considered vermin in some areas of Victoria due to the damage caused to fencing. They have also been blamed for soil erosion on farming properties as a result of their burrowing activities. This may a be the result of a combination of farming practices, rabbit activities and wombats and not solely wombat activities.

© Habitat Ecology 2020