Rufous Bettong

Scientific name: Aepyprymnus rufescens

IUCN Conservation Status: Rufous Bettong (Vulnerable Species)

The rufous rat-kangaroo (Aepyprymnus rufescens), more commonly known as the rufous bettong, is a small marsupial species of the family Potoroidae found in Australia. It is found in coastal and subcoastal regions from Newcastle in New South Wales to Cooktown in Queensland, and was formerly found in the Murray River Valley of New South Wales and Victoria.

 

The rufous Bettong is the only member of its genus, and is the largest of all the potoroids. It is generally grey with a hint of reddish brown and its scientific name means “reddish high-rump”.  It was once thought of as a solitary, nocturnal animal, but recent observation indicates that the rufous Bettong may form loose, polygynous associations

Description

Rufous Bettongs are small marsupials, 70 to 80 cm long from nose to tail. They have reddish-brown fur, including on the muzzle. They normally move quite slowly by placing the forelegs on the ground and bringing the hind legs forward together, but can also hop like a kangaroo. When alarmed they stamp their hind feet on the ground. They are known to use their tails to carry nesting material.

 

Habitat

Rufous Bettongs inhabit a variety of forests from tall, moist eucalypt forest to open woodland, with a tussock grass understorey. A dense cover of tall native grasses is the preferred shelter.

Distribution

The original range from Coen in north Queensland to central Victoria has been reduced to a patchy distribution from Cooktown, Queensland, to north-eastern NSW as far south as Mt Royal National Park. In NSW it has largely vanished from inland areas but there are patchy, unconfirmed records from the Pilliga and Torrington districts.

Diet and Behaviour

Rufous Bettongs usually emerge shortly after dark to forage and primarily eat herbs, roots, tubers and fungi. They can cover up to 2km – 4.5km when foraging.

The Rufous Bettong is a solitary species that shelters during the day in ‘nests’, shallow excavations with a dome of fibrous vegetation across the top and a single entrance. Multiple nests are often used by the same individual.

Females are continuous breeders, with sexual maturity reached at around 11 months. Females raise one young per pregnancy, but exhibit embryonic diapause and can have 3-4 young per year.

 

Threats

Habitat loss and clearing for stock grazing

Predation by feral animals, such as foxes and cats

Competition from introduced species, such as rabbits and hares

Illegal poisoning by 1080

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