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how many types of wombats are in australia
Naked-nosed Wombat, Island Wombat, Tasmanian Wombat, Forest Wombat, Coarse-haired Wombat. It is also known as a Common Wombat, a term that is increasingly misleading, as it was probably associated with the species’ historic wide population distribution, which has become more fragmented.
Bare-nosed Wombat is the only living member of its genus Vombatus, and is similar in appearance to two remaining wombat species (Southern and Northern Hairy-nosed Wombats) belonging to the genus Lasiorhinus. The main differences are the absence of hair on the nose in the Bare-nosed Wombat, its coarser hair and narrower nasal bones than in Lasiorhinus. In the early descriptions of the species by the Europeans, wombats have been linked to badgers, beavers, pigs and bears (it is because of its bear-like appearance that it has been named ursinus (Latin ursus, bear)). However, other than being a mammal, the wombat is not related to these animals: wombats are marsupials (the young develop in mother’s pouch) and not placentals, like the other aforementioned mammals.
The main habitat for the Bare-nosed Wombat is the temperate forest-covered areas of southeastern Australia. The species tends to avoid rainforests and is often found in the mountainous areas. In southern Queensland and northern New South Wales it is found only in sclerophyll forest above 600 m. In South Australia and Tasmania it also occurs at lower altitudes in more open vegetation – woodland, coastal scrub and heathland.
Wombats prefer to dig their main shelters on slopes above creeks and gullies, and feed in grassy clearings.
At the time of European settlement, 200 years ago, the Bare-nosed Wombat was wide spread from southeastern Queensland, through New South Wales along the Great Dividing Range to most of Victoria (except the northwestern corner of the state). It was also present in the southeast of South Australia, in Tasmania and on many of the larger Bass Strait Islands.
Today the species has a discontinued and fragmented distribution. It has almost disappeared from the western half of Victoria and it is absent from many parts of New South Wales where it formerly ranged. In addition, it has declined in South Australia, and is now only found on Flinders Island of the Bass Strait Islands.
Bare-nosed Wombat is one of the few marsupials that are active above the snowline in winter, however they appear to be less active than during warmer months. In summer, the animal is mainly nocturnal, emerging from its burrow when the air cools down, to avoid high temperatures. In general, wombats spend most of their lives (about two thirds) in their burrows.
Feeding and diet
A wombat usually leaves the burrow after sunset and begins to graze for several hours. During this time, it may return to its burrow to rest, or seek refuge, and it will return to sleep generally before sunrise. However, in cool or overcast days the animals are known to forage longer and during the day.
The main food for wombats is fibrous native grasses, sedges and rushes, and the choice of food depends on what is available at the time. Wombats seem to prefer Tussock Grass in the forest areas, and Kangaroo Grass and Wallaby Grass are favoured in open, more pastoral areas. At times when it is eating grass, a wombat will also eat dry leaves and stalks, and occasionally tear a strip of bark from a tree trunk and chew small quantities of it. In some habitats, wombats also feed on mosses, possibly as a source of water, given their low nutritional value. Anecdotal observations of wombats feeding on fungi have been reported as well.
Wombats are generally classed as solitary animals despite the overlapping ranges and occasional sharing of the burrows. Therefore, communication between two individuals is often threatening or aggressive. A warning call is usually a low guttural growl, but when a wombat is alarmed or angered, rasping hiss can also be heard. The animal repeats this high, loud call as it expels air. Sometimes the call can be a more aggressive ‘chikker chikker’ sound and/or a more guttural sound similar to that of an angry brushtail possum.
Life history cycle
Usually, one very small, underdeveloped wombat is born following a short gestation period (probably 30 days). It makes its way to the pouch, where it grows and develops for 6-10 months. The young then leaves the pouch and remains with its mother for further 8-10 months before becoming independent. Bare-nosed Wombats become sexually mature after two years and live up to 11 years in the wild. In captivity, individuals can live well into their twenties.
Breeding may occur at any time of the year, with a single young being born. However, in the highlands of New South Wales, most wombats give birth during December-March, while in Tasmania there is an apparent bias towards October-January being the birthing season. On Flinders Island no births occur between September-January months.
When a female enters oestrus she becomes active and aggressive. Mating has been observed in captive wombats; the female attacked the male for about 30 minutes before allowing him to mate. The mating lasted for about 30 minutes with both male and female laying on their sides. In the wild, the courtship consists of the female being chased by the male in wide circles.
In eastern Victoria the species is considered a vermin due to the damage it causes to fencing. Some landholders also blame the wombats for erosion of creek and river banks, which is often far lower compared to that caused by poor farming practices: over-stocking and over-clearing, in particular.