Rat pack confirmed at Robe
22 May 2019
Department for Environment and Water Senior Ranger Cath Bell was recently called to Robe to investigate a mysterious plough over in a residential backyard, with feral rats accused as the culprits.
Cath said the backyard had a dense vegetation canopy over the whole garden, with grassy thatching and low shrubs underneath.
“There were scratchings and tunnels all across the property, indicating a healthy population of whatever has moved in,” Cath said.
“The diggings did not look typical of feral rats, so I set up a remote sensing camera at one of the burrows, to catch a photo and identify the creatures who had moved in.”
With the camera set, an image was captured within 24 hours.
“We confirmed an Eastern swamp rat (Rattus lutreolus),” Cath said.
“This cute native is sometimes mistaken for less popular feral species like the black or brown rat, however you can tell a native apart from the feral by looking at its ears and tail. Swamp rats have shorter ears, and their tail is roughly the same length as its head and body. A feral rat’s tail is much longer.”
“Swamp rats are vegetarians, feeding on grass and sedge roots. They are also quite shy and aren’t good climbers so you won’t find them in roof cavities for example.”
The Eastern swamp rat is listed as Rare in South Australia and is protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act (1972). It is illegal to kill or interfere with protected wildlife.
“There are other types of rat-sized native animals, like bandicoots and antechinus (marsupial mouse) that could be mistaken for pests, so we encourage people to try and identify these animals correctly before panicking or laying poison baits.”
“While it can be challenging when creatures take up residence on your property, it’s important to understand the needs of native animals and consider their welfare if devising a way of moving them out.”
For more information or for assistance with identifying pests on your property, contact your local NRM officer. To find out more about living with wildlife, see the Department for Environment and Water website.
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