Black footed Tree Rat

The black-footed tree-rat Mesembriomys gouldii is one of the largest rodents in Australia, weighing up to 830 g. It is an attractive solid rodent with long shaggy medium grey to black fur on top, pale underside, large black ears and a distinctive long hairy tail with a white tip. The Black-footed Tree-rat is largely arboreal (tree-dwelling), using its long tail for balance. Typical habitat is tall forests of Darwin Woollybutt and Darwin Stringybark, with a moderately dense mid-storey of shrubs and small trees and grassy understorey.  They are fairly solitary, nocturnal animals, sheltering in tree hollows and pandanus stands during the day. Hard fruits and seeds are a major component of their diet, supplemented by grass and invertebrates and other seasonal resources such as nectar rich flowers. Breeding can occur year-round with a peak of births in the late dry season. Litter size is small (1-3 young).

blackfooted-tree-rat

 

The black-footed tree rat is one species that appears to have remained relatively abundant in the Darwin rural area, perhaps because of fire regimes. Recurrent intense fires reduce the abundance of fleshy-fruited shrubs favoured by Black-footed Tree Rats, as well as the availability of hollow trees. Clearing for agriculture has reduced the extent of their habitat in localised areas including north-east Queensland and parts of the Northern Territory. Perhaps you have seen one on your block?

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