Bush rats are small Australian animals. They have soft and dense fur which is grey-brown and red-brown with light grey-brown underparts. Tails of these animals are brown, grey or black and are always slightly shorter than the body. The feet can be white, pink, grey or brown and the hindfeet of Bush rats are often darker that the forefeet. Males in this species are larger than the females.
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Bush rats are found primarily in the coastal regions of southwestern Australia.
They mainly occur in the lowlands but can also be found in parts of the Australian Alps and on some offshore islands, including Kangaroo Island. Bush rats inhabit coastal scrub and heath, subalpine woodland, eucalypt forest, and tropical moist forest.
The species varies greatly in coloration and size. The length of the head and body combined is from 100 to 205 millimetres (3.9 to 8.1 in), the tail is 100 to 195 mm (3.9 to 7.7 in); these measurements are approximately the same in the individuals. The ventral side of the pelage is a light grey or cream colour, which grades with the rufous flank and darker brown of the upper-side; the overall colour is a greyish or reddish brown. The length of the hind foot is 30 to 40 mm (1.2 to 1.6 in) and the ear 18 to 25 mm (0.71 to 0.98 in). The average weight, for a range of 50 to 225 grams (1.8 to 7.9 oz), is 125 g (4.4 oz). The number of teats is variable in the regional populations, the females bears one pair of pectoral teats and four at the inguinal region, except in the north of Queensland where the pectoral teats are absent.
Habits and Lifestyle
Bush rats are rarely seen because of their shy nature and nocturnal behaviour. They are not social animals and spend their life alone. Young rats leave their birthplace to find their own small territory for surviving the winter. During spring and summer time they usually travel great distances and males can cover up to a kilometre for one night. Bush rats are terrestrial and prefer areas with dense undergrowth.
They construct a burrow that leads down into the nest chamber and is lined with grass and other vegetation. Bush rats tend to avoid areas impacted by humans. When threatened they defend themselves with boxing, threat-posture, clash or approach. In order to communicate with one another Bush rats produce sounds, use touch, odor, and visual identification.
Diet and Nutrition
Bush rats are omnivorouse creatures. In the summer they consume primarily fruit, arthropods, and seeds, but in the winter their main source of food is from a particular cyperaceous species. When in the forest Bush rats consume primarily fungi and various fibrous plant material. They have been even observed feeding on nectar without damaging the blossoms.
Little is known about the mating system in Bush rats. They begin breeding around November. The majority of individuals do not live to a second breeding cycle due to their short life span. Females can have several litters giving birth to 4-5 young per litter.
The gestation period varies between 22 and 24 days. Females nurse their young in a burrow for 20-25 days after which pups become independent. They become reproductively mature at around 4 months of age.
The bush rat is strictly nocturnal and is active year-round. Adults seem to be nomadic, but will rarely leave the forest floor. The species is primarily herbivorous, consuming fungi and plant tissue, but includes arthropods in their diet. It is also the host to more parasites than any other Australian rodent. They exhibit stereotypically normal behaviour when approaching an intruder; boxing, threat-posture, clash, approach. The bush rat is prey to some local predators, including dingoes, foxes, birds of prey and reptiles.
Bush rats tend to avoid areas impacted by humans, and populations tend to decline when anthropogenic influences in a region increase.
Some of the biggest threats to the Bush rat include Red foxes and feral cats, both introduced species.
Evidence suggests that the incidence of fire can increase predation of Bush rats due to the removal of undergrowth in which they are usually able to hide
The IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide the Bush rat total population size, but this animal is common and widespread throughout its known range. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.