ANTECHINUS

When a mouse is not a mouse.

Early November 2004 we had some interesting little creatures come in to care. The mother was found dead under a rat bait station with four tiny babies, alive and clinging to her fur.

The caller was most distraught, as he had intended ridding his premises of rats and mice, not suspecting that native wildlife may also fall prey to the baits. He was uncertain as to what these little critters were, but knew that they were definitely not mice or rats and turned out to be the native Dusky Antechinus.

These cute little creatures look similar to the feral mouse, but there are differences. For one, the Antechinus lacks the pungent odours associated with mice, they also lack the enlarged incisor teeth (front) like the mouse has, and instead they have teeth similar to canines. They do not gnaw on cables etc like mice, and they are unlikely to eat stored food, being carnivores they prefer insects and small lizards.

We have 3 species of Antechinus in Northern NSW; being the Brown Antechinus, Dusky Antechinus and Yellow- footed Antechinus. All 3 species have a similar breeding pattern, mating in September, when the males become very aggressive searching for females. They mate for up to 6 hours at a time over a period of 2 weeks with a number of females, after which not a single male is left alive, death results from stress due to aggressive behavior and the excessive mating ritual.

A quiz question often asked: “What is the most sexed animal in the world?” The answer is: the Antechinus.

About a month after mating the female gives birth to approx 7-10 tiny babies. They are carried in a kind of open pouch clinging to the nipples of the mother, as she goes about her business, being dragged over the ground for 5-8 weeks depending on species. One wonders how they manage to survive this early part of their life. After 6-8 weeks they become too large to travel with the mother, they are now left in the nest made of dry plant material, hidden in a hollow log or similar protected place. They are weaned at 3 months of age, and now travel with mum through the summer months. As winter approaches, they all become solitary and go their separate ways, sexually maturing at 11 months of age.

The Dusky Antechinus is found only on the east cost of Australia and Tasmania, living in mainly mountainous areas with dense understorey of ferns and scrubs. Here it uses its long claws and powerful limbs to dig for invertebrates; it also eats fruits such as blackberry on occasion. At this stage the Dusky Antechinus is not considered threatened, however, some local populations throughout the region have been reduced due to burning, which destroys complex under storey habitat.

Of the 4 juvenile Antechinus we had come in to care, 3 died due to the rat poison, 1 survived and was successfully released, I am guessing that the survivor did not have a drink from mum after she ate the bait.

Please be careful when dealing with mice in your home, you could be accidentally killing protected native Wildlife, who help maintain the fragile balance of biodiversity in our local forests.

Reference: The Australian Museum Complete book of Australian Mammals

The Antechinus like all native birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles are all proteced under the Wildlife Act 1975, they may not be captured or harmed in any way without an authority issued under the Wildlife Act.

 

 

 

 

 
 
 

©Wildlife Mountain 2000 - 2014

 

We would also like to acknowledge the amazing support and help we have had from the Lismore Vet Clinic who have been an invaluable support to both us and the native wildlife of this region.


All native birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles are proteced under the Wildlife Act 1975, they may not be captured or harmed in any way without an authority issued under the Wildlife Act.

Webmaster Susanne Ulyatt