Nice natives move in

Investigations into mysterious track marks in vegetation areas of Jan Juc have revealed that the native Swamp Rat (Rattus lutreolus) is calling the area home.

Jan Juc Coast Action chairperson Luke Hynes said the group’s hard work to restore the area was resulting in native species moving into the habitat.

“We laid a number of traps out to discover out what has been making the tracks.  It was exciting to see one of the animals that now live in the vegetation areas we have created,” he said.

A Swamp Rat caught as part of the investigation
A Swamp Rat caught as part of the investigation

Jo Ludbrook . Coast Action / Coastcare Facilitator for South West Victoria from the Department of Sustainability and Environment said the trappings helped to identify what sort of small marsupials and native rodents were living in the area.

“The findings help to educate people about the wildlife in the local area and gives us an opportunity to really look at what we are protecting,” said Ms Ludbrook.

Trevor Pescott from the Geelong Field Naturalist Club regularly lays traps to gather data about what species are living where.

“We use aluminium box traps with a bait of peanut butter, honey and oatmeal and then measure, weigh and determine the sex of the animals we catch,” said Mr. Pescott.

Interested onlookers listen as Trevor Pescott speaks about the native rat.

For most people rats are associated with unpleasant thoughts but the protected Swamp Rat is quite different to introduced rats.

Mr Pescott said native rats would not generally come into a house because of their feeding behaviours.

“Swamp rats feed on plants, grass and sedge materials, so they don’t need to come into a house to forage for food,” he said.    “Swamp rats live in gardens on the Surf Coast, so it’s important to keep the bait inside the house or garage where you know the rats are living,” said Mr. Pescott.

Mr Pescott said people could easily determine whether rats around their home were native by their appearance.

“A rat with a tail the same length or shorter than its head and body is a native rat, while a rat with a tail longer than the body it will be an introduced pest species,” he said.

For more information about native rats contact Trevor Pescott or visit the  Geelong Field Naturalists Club website

To get involved with Jan Juc Coast Action, Contact Luke Hynes on 0406 113 438

This column was featured in the Surf Coast Time’s fortnightly Going Green Column.

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