Have you noticed any small excavation work going on at your place? Have a closer look. It may be rabbits or it may be the work of a little local marsupial called a quenda (Isoondon fusciventer). Quenda is the Noongar name for a species of bandicoot endemic to the southwest of Australia.
While foraging for food quenda tend to create a cone shaped hollow quiet distinct from rabbit diggings. Rabbit diggings are usually larger and square ended. The quenda digging is a shallow pointed shape compared to the rabbit digging which is deeper and blunt ended.
Quenda are known as the ‘ecosystem engineers’ moving tonnes of soil each year in their search for food. Quenda eat insects, worms, small vertebrates and plant matter. This soil movement assists with leaf litter decomposition, soil microbiology and the health of native flora.
Quenda are similar in size to small rabbits with a compact body, long pointed nose, small ears and short tail. They have been mistaken for large rats but their compact body and short tail make them quiet distinct. They can carry up to six young in a pouch that faces backwards. The rear facing pouch is designed to help prevent it filing with soil from all that digging.
Unfortunately like many of our local native species quenda numbers are in decline. Habitat loss, competition for space and food from rabbits, predation from foxes and cats and motor vehicle trauma. Quenda are found in shrubby areas with plenty of low dense understorey. Some property owners may be fortunate and have them visit their own backyards.
Sue Ford Natural Resource Management Support Officer Landcare SJ
Photos by Sue Ford and Tony Brown