Is it a rat? Is it a joey? 'Very special' baby rescued
THEY'RE listed as a vulnerable species in New South Wales, and local wildlife carers haven't come across one in more than three years, but that changed last week when a "very special" baby came into the care of WIRES Northern Rivers.
WIRES Northern Rivers spokeswoman Renata Phelps said it was "fairly unusual" to receive their latest animal, later identified as a female Rufous bettong.
Ms Phelps said WIRES received a call from a resident near Tabulam who had found a "very tiny" joey, at the time believed to be a potoroo, after the mother had been captured in a possum trap.
When the mother was released from the trap, she quickly fled and disappeared, leaving her joey behind.
"When she first came, she was very thin and dehydrated and clearly hadn't been eating for a few days," Ms Phelps said.
"Now she is doing really well in care. She has put on a huge amount of weight in a short amount of time, and she has settled in really well."
Ms Phelps said the joey was around five or six months old, weighing only around 240 grams, and would remain in care for another six months before she is released.
Listed as a vulnerable species in NSW, it is thought Rufous bettong numbers are rapidly decreasing in the wild due to fox and feral cat predation along with habitat loss.
"They're really special little creatures," Ms Phelps said.
"Unlike most marsupials such as kangaroos or wallabies which graze on grasses, bettongs are omnivores. They dig in the ground for truffles and they eat insects and grubs."
Ms Phelps said WIRES Northern Rivers has had only six bettongs in care since 2014.
"Their numbers are decreasing, and a big part of that is because of habitat loss," she said.
"They live in grass nests and are often killed by clearing, slashing or burning. Farmers can help protect local bettong populations by leaving a section of the paddock alone, even a small corner can help."
She reminded locals if you find find injured or orphaned wildlife, especially marsupials, to call WIRES immediately, rather than trying to look after them yourself.