We have a new resident here at Pilyara – a hard-working wombat, who is digging a grand new burrow beneath a stump along the drive, just metres from the house.
Bare Nosed Wombats (Vombatus ursinus) are endearing animals that abound here at Pilyara. They emerge at dusk to graze the paddocks, retiring during the day to the safety and comfort of their tunnels. I love wombats. Large and lumbering, they are the world’s biggest herbiverous burrowing mammals. With short legs and tail, rotund bodies and a cuddly appearance, they resemble little bears, but their closest relatives are actually koalas. Wombats are marsupials, but have hollow, rodent-like teeth, that grow in response to wear, and can gnaw through the toughest roots. Like living mini-bulldozers, they can be a problem for farmers when they meet obstacles such as fences. In winter, females produce a single baby which spends its first few months within her rear-facing pouch.
Wombats face multiple threats. Loss of habitat, dogs, traffic, unsympathetic land owners, and disease. It always saddens me to see a wombat out and about in broad daylight. Mostly these animals are suffering from sarcoptic mange, a nasty condition that causes hair loss, pain, scabby skin, starvation, blindness and ultimately death.
Wombats are also killed by cars, and their corpses are a common sight on local roadsides. Dedicated carers, like Reg and Jenny Mattingly of the Maryknoll Wildlife Shelter, rescue and rear dozens of orphaned baby wombats each year. They also provide burrow flaps to treat mangy wombats with a dose of Cydectin as they enter or leave their dens. Which brings me to our new, resident wombat. It’s nice to know that if he or she contracts mange, we know where the burrow is!