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Who’s visiting our backyards?

Notes on a presentation given for Lake Macquarie Council by Landcare Support Officer Wendy Gleen 

A lot of our local native mammals are small and nocturnal, which means they can be missed. NSW BioNet data base has 65 native mammals listed for the Lake Macquarie area.
What is the importance of these little creatures that visit our backyards and live in local bushland?  Well they are: pollinators, pest controllers, soil fungi spreaders are three examples.

Then there’s the native rodent. Evolving for over 4 million years, they are perhaps better described as the Native Bushrat or Bogul (Rattis fuscipes), as distinct from the introduced Black or Grey Rat (See the next story for more details)

Small possums such as the Eastern pigmy possum and gliders such as the Feather tailed glider and sugar glider are important species to have around.  They all need to have healthy, diverse complex habitat in which to make their homes.

Small omnivorous marsupials that are found locally include the Bandicoots – Long nosed and Northern brown Bandicoots as well as the Long Nosed Potoroo. These species are important for soil and plant health as they spread fungi as part of them being ecosystem engineers.

Local carnivorous marsupials include the Antechinus and Dunnart.

Looking after small mammals and other fauna is very important, so —

  • choose local native plant species
  • get involved with bush regeneration such as Landcare
  • get engaged with Lake Mac’s Backyards for Wildlife program and with iNaturalist.

The best help for small native mammals is healthy dense complex habitat.  Where this is in short supply it may help to provide nest boxes, but be aware these might be colonised by undesirable species, so be careful.

Introduced predators such as cats and foxes put a lot of pressure on our native fauna, which hasn’t evolved to be able to cope with such efficient predators. The best control is education of pet owners, so encourage your neighbours to learn a lot more about some of our amazing local native animals.

When is a rat not a rat?  When they are a Bogul

A misunderstood resident in the bush is the native rodent – there are over 60 species native to Australia. Some of these species have been evolving on this continent for over 4 million years. One local example is the Native Bushrat or Bogul (Rattus fuscipes). We believe there are Boguls residing at Munibung Hill.

This is a very different animal than the introduced (feral) Black Rat Rattus rattus which causes so many problems in our urban environment as well as in the bush.

The native Bogul does not breed up into huge numbers, or move into our urban areas, or climb up into the trees to predate small birds and their nests. Unfortunately the two species look very similar. Two differences that we can use for identification are:

  • the Black Rat is a good climber whereas the Bogul is not.
  • the Black Rat has a tail longer than the combined length of its head and body – the Bogul has a shorter tail that it often holds quite stiffly.

Words: Wendy Gleen, Ecologist, Landcare Lake Mac   Pictures: File