Local native diggers

If you see an unusual small dome-shaped mound of dead leaves and twigs in your garden, or have small cone shaped holes in the lawn, you may be lucky to have a local native digger in your backyard. This unique marsupial is known as a Quenda (the local Noongar word).

Quenda (Isoodon obesulus fusciventer) is a sub-species of the Southern Brown Bandicoot. Quenda are classified as ‘Near Threatened.’1 They normally live in dense understorey around swamps and banksia and jarrah woodlands. 2 Quenda are common in the Perth Hills as there is still a lot of dense vegetation to provide habitat. They can also adapt to backyard vegetation. The home territory can be up to 6 hectares. Where there is abundant food the home territory may be a lot smaller and overlap with other quenda.2

Quenda are medium size, weigh up to 1.5kg and grow to 35cm in length. They are about the same size as a rabbit! Their fur is grey-brown with short spiny blackish hairs and softer paler fur underneath.1 They have a long pointed nose, black eyes and small round ears. Quenda have long front claws which they used to dig for food such as bugs, tubers, and fungi. Their tail is short and can be fully or partially lost during fights with other quenda. Quenda are usually solitary animals and the males are territorial, which is why they fight each other!

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Photos: Pam Cherriman

Sometimes quenda are confused with rats, particularly when they are young and smaller. Unlike rats, they are unable to climb, have a hopping bounding gait and live in the garden and bush.

While quenda (mainly females) care for their young for some weeks after weaning, they have to find their own territory eventually.3 They are particularly vulnerable to predation by foxes, cats and dogs when they are on the move looking for a new place to live.

They normally go looking for food at night. During the day, quenda cosy up in nests that look like a small dome-shaped pile of leaves and twigs, about the size of a basketball.3 The chamber of the nest is dug below the surface and has an emergency exit at the back to escape from predators. 3 The nest isn’t permanent and each quenda can have more than one.

According to the Community Quenda Survey,4 quendas are great ecosystem engineers who are looking after the long-term health of remnant patches of suburban bushland. By digging for food they love, quenda are helping the environment. They breakdown soil organic matter, help water infiltrate into the soil, facilitate nutrient cycling, aerate the soil and assist seed germination. It has been estimated that an individual quenda can turn over around 3.9 tonnes of soil each year.5 All good reasons for helping to keep quendas healthy!

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Distribution map of quenda.
Map: Department of Parks and Wildlife.

 

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Quendas digging and foraging for food. Photos: Miroslav Vujaklija.

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Quenda nest. Photo: Simon Cherriman.

 

Source:

1 Atlas of Living Australia

2 Living with Quendas, July 20115, Department of Conservation and Land Management

3 INSIGHT News – Simon Cherriman

4 Community Quenda Survey

5 Valentine et al. 2012.

 

Download the ‘Is feeding backyard quenda (bandicoots) making them fat?‘, ‘Quendas are not Rats‘ and ‘Quenda Feeding’ information sheets.