Bettongs (Bettongia gaimardi
) typically reach 2 kg in weight and are coloured yellowish grey above and white below. The tail of the bettong is as long as the head and body while; in comparison, the tail of the
is significantly shorter.
Distribution and habitat
The bettong is only found in the eastern half of Tasmania, including maria and Bruny islands. It became extinct on the Australian mainland in the early decades of the twentieth century, largely because of predation by foxes and large scale land clearance.
The bettong prefers dry open eucalypt forests and grassy woodlands. It is nocturnal, spending the hours of daylight in a domed, camouflaged nest of grass. The bettong collects suitable nesting material and carries it back to the nest site in its prehensile tail, which it curls downward around the bundle. In comparison to the potoroo which does not venture far when feeding, the bettong may travel up to 1.5 km from the nest to a feeding area; quite a journey for an animal this size!
The diet of the bettong includes seeds, roots, bulbs and insects, but like the
, underground fungi are a favourite item on the menu. Predators include masked owls,
, feral cats and dogs.
There is no specific breeding season with animals capable of giving birth throughout the year. Gestation is 21 days. Because of the relatively short time that young bettongs spend in the pouch, these animals can produce two or three young per year.
Pouch life is about 3.5 months and weaning occurs at 5-6 months. Sexually maturity is reached at about 12 months of age. Longevity in the wild is 3-5 years
The bettong remains moderately common in suitable habitat. However, both bettong and potoroo have been affected by the clearing of bush areas, with new growth forest being less suitable for their needs. Little of the bettong's habitat is protected within reserves. With the highest densities occurring on private land, it is important that property owners manage remaining vegetation to allow the continued existence of the bettong. The species is wholly protected.