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Monday, 18 Dec 2017

Native Australian Water-rat

The Australian Water-rat is a secretive creature that can be found by observant people in a few places around Roleystone. Around here they live along permanent watercourses, such as the Canning river and in reservoirs and lakes.

They are not like ordinary rats. They are much bigger, have partially webbed hind feet, and beautiful, dense waterproof fur which they were once hunted for.

The easiest distinguishing characteristic (apart from size and webbed feet) is that they usually have a white tip to their tail.

The are completely unrelated to the Water Vole of Europe, and also the Black Rat, Brown Rat, and House Mouse.

They make their nests in hidden burrows at the edge of banks, or occasionally in hollow logs. They normally breed around September to January, and have about 3-4 young.

While most rats are herbivorous (vegetarian), Water-rats (like me) eat vegetation as a last resort, and instead hunt a wide variety of animals such as large water-insects, crustaceans, fish, mussels, frogs, bird-eggs, spiders, and even water birds.

They are normally nocturnal, but may forage during the day and the best time to see them is at around dusk or early in the morning.

After a successful hunt, they often go back to a local favourite eating spot and leave the remains in a pile. These rubbish dumps of mussel shells and marron skeletons are usually the most visible indications of Water -rat activity in an area.

The presence of Water-rats is a reasonable indicator of the general health of the water body it inhabits, as a healthy river will contain enough food for them.

Its presence in the Canning River here should not be taken for granted and they are vulnerable to cats and deteriorating water quality. Even the illegal marroning that occurs in the river may effect the local populations as the young marrons are a prized food source.

water.rat rakali 1Rakali water.rat marronmiddenMidden
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