Bandicoots are a nocturnal marsupial with a well-developed pouch. There are 21 recognised species of bandicoot that live throughout Australia, New Guinea and the surrounding islands, with bilbies being one of the most well-known. Many people do not realize that bilbies are part of the bandicoot family.
Australian bandicoots range in size up to about 2500 gram. Since the introduction of cats and foxes to Australia, bandicoots have had a much harder time. In Australia, out of 11 species, four have become extinct, one species is endangered, and another is registered as vulnerable or rare.
Bandicoots are omnivorous, meaning they eat a large range of grasses, worms, invertebrates and bulbs, with some species also eating fungi.
The life span of bandicoots is reportedly short, around 3 to 5 years, so time in care needs to be short too, to give them as much time in the wild as possible for breeding. They tend to live longer in captivity.
The breeding months for bandicoots are between August and February. Although they will breed between March and July, they are not so prolific. Bandicoots can raise between 3 to 7 litters in one year, but on average they raise 2 litters. Average size of a litter is between 2 to 4 joeys. Babies hang underneath the mother in the pouch.
Bandicoots tend to be escape artists, and can dig ferociously to get out, so need to be housed in an enclosure with a wired floor. Enclosures need a 10-20 cm layer of dirt with leaf litter on top to give them room to dig and make depressions for nesting in. Tussocks of grass, hollow logs and branches can also be added for further comfort. Hollow bricks semi buried, and pvc pipe lined with fabric (the leg of a pair of pants for grip) and semi buried with dirt over the top also adds interest if hollow logs are not available. Be aware that bandicoots can climb a wire enclosure and they can also jump.
The floor should be well drained, and sand or soil used as the base over the wire. Having a dirt floor encourages the bandicoots to dig for their own worms and other insects. By supplying tussocks of grass with the root and dirt still attached, you are giving the bandicoots something interesting to forage in and to use for nesting materials. You will find the bandicoot will drag nesting materials into a pipe or log to make his/her own nest for daytime sleeping.
Bandicoots are solitary animals by nature, and wild adults should not be forced to house together – this will cause stress and arguments. Young bandicoots that are hand raised are more accepting of being housed together, but ensure enough room and hidey holes for both if they do not wish to share. Bandicoots should not be kept on a concrete or straight wire floor as these can cause damage to the toes and feet.
Remove faecal matter or turn over the soil to clean the enclosure. Remove all uneaten food. Water dishes should be cleaned daily. When an animal is released the enclosure should be thoroughly cleaned prior to a new animal being installed.
Joey Bandicoots need help toileting, as do most Australian native pouch young. Gently stimulate the cloacae with a damp tissue and the joey will toilet on its own. Usually by the time they are around 50 grams they can toilet on their own. Bandicoots that are fully furred and running around an enclosure do not need help with toileting. Juvenile bandicoots are independent when they reach around 200 grams.
As with all native animals in care, it is important to keep good records. Record weights and quantities of milk, times between feeds, solids offered and eaten.
Adults and weaned joeys: Offer food in a non-spill dish, like a cat or dog dish. Use a large, shallow bowl for offering earth worms and mealworms. Add leaf litter or soil to the bowl, and allow the bandicoot to forage for them on its own, when it is old enough to do so. Tip the left over soil into the base of the enclosure, which helps to add depth for digging and helps to stimulate the bandicoot’s appetite. Tussocks of grass, including the root system with dirt, are good for the animal to forage amongst. They will also nibble on the roots. Fresh water should always be available.
Bandicoots old enough to forage will enjoy a mixture of the following:
Diced apple, pawpaw, sweet potato, carrot and corn
Mung bean sprouts
Boiled or scrambled egg
A dessertspoon of dampened dog kibble
Supplement foods should include: crickets, fly pupae, mealworms, moths, earthworms, grasshoppers, cicadas and cockroaches. Adult bandicoots will also eat mice.
Milk formulas need to be discussed with an experienced wildlife carer.
Bandicoots should be released once they reach around the 700 gram mark. If possible, set up your aviary to have a tunnel, leading from it to the local bush area. This gives the animal a safe haven and means of travel. Because they find their food by foraging, river banks with their soft soil are an ideal place for bandicoots.
It is an unfortunate fact that many people believe Bandicoots are responsible for the spread of ticks. Bandicoots forage in grass, where ticks live, and as such, they are prone to getting ticks. Bandicoots prefer to remain within one hectare of the nest, but can have a territory up to 3 hectares. However, more mobile animals, like feral and domestic cats, foxes and dogs are just as capable of transporting ticks, and because they travel a much broader range of habitat, they distribute ticks more effectively! Bandicoots can acquire a strong resistance to tick paralysis toxin, and this is why they are considered to be ‘hosts’. If you have a bandicoot come into care with a tick, remove it, particularly in young joeys, as it will make them ill.
This is information is written from my own experience with raising bandicoots. I have collected and collated the information over several years, gained from sharing information with other carers. This publication is designed to provide an overview of the subject matter covered, and whilst due care was taken in writing the materials, no liability is accepted for any error, omission or reliance upon information or advice.
B. Clarke ©
A guide to raising Bandicoots
Whiskas - B. Clarke