Once the Eastern barred bandicoot was widespread and abundant throughout Victoria’s volcanic plains and grasslands. Endemic only to Australia, this insectivorous marsupial is now among the most endangered species of the continent, believed to be extinct in the wild. The muzzle is whiskered, the tail is thin and short while the eyes are large and bulbous. The slender and elongated head tapers towards the pink nose. The animal has soft fur, which is greyish brown in color. The tail, feet and belly exhibit creamy white coloration. The animal is so called due to the faint stripes, running across its hindquarters.
The species is native to southeastern Australia, namely, Tasmania and Victoria, where these animals form two distinct populations, which can be considered as separate subspecies. These are: the mainland subspecies and the Tasmanian subspecies. The mainland subspecies of the Eastern barred bandicoot is quite rare in Victoria; its range is limited to the basalt plains, stretching from near the South Australian border to the Melbourne area. The Tasmanian subspecies occur exclusively in Tasmania. These animals tend to live in tall dense grass or shrub cover, remaining near a water source. They are also found in various other habitats, including tree shelter belts, bush blocks, farms (which provide them shelter from predators), gardens, cemeteries as well as car dumps.
These nocturnal and solitary animals only associate with conspecifics during the mating season. During the daytime hours, they rest in their nests, which are simply shallow recesses in the ground, covered with domes of grass. Each nest is usually used by only one adult individual exclusively. However, during the first week after leaving the pouch, juveniles can live in the nest with their mother. They feed after dusk, coming out of their nests and looking for food. When disturbed, the Eastern barred bandicoot can be very aggressive and noisy: the animal will typically squeak, hiss and snuffle. The bandicoot is able to move quite fast, galloping as well as making long leaps of up to one meter.
The Eastern barred bandicoots are omnivores, they consume food of both plant and animal origin. Their diet includes various vegetation such as seeds, roots, berries, grasses and moss, as well as small vertebrates such as beetles, grasshoppers and adult weevils. They also feed upon grubs, earthworms, insect larvae and slugs.
As Eastern barred bandicoots are solitary animals and mix with other bandicoots only when breeding, they may have either polygynous mating system or polygynandrous (promiscuous). Females produce 3 - 4 litters, each one containing 1 - 4 babies, suggesting that one female may yield up to 16 young per year. Births typically occur from June to February in Tasmanian subspecies and throughout the year - in mainland subspecies. Gestation period in this species is one of the shortest among mammals – only 12 days. Juveniles are weaned by 55 days old, after which they remain with their mother, foraging with her until 86 days old. The Eastern barred bandicoots first breed at about 4 months old.
The biggest threat to the population of this Near Threatened species is loss of habitat: nearly 99% of the original habitat of mainland subspecies has been destroyed and modified. The animals currently suffer from hunting by introduced predators. On the other hand, introduced grazers such as rabbits and sheep have cleared large areas of their range, leading to sharp decline in the mainland population. In addition, Eastern barred bandicoots are often accidentally trapped in rabbit snares. Other notable threats include fires, pesticide poisoning and collisions with motor vehicles.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total number of Eastern barred bandicoots’ population is unknown for today; however, the population on mainland Australia is unlikely to be more than 200 animals. Eastern barred bandicoots’ numbers are decreasing today, and currently these animals are classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List.
Their diet consists of corbies, cockchafers and many other insects, which are considered pests by farmers because of eating lawns and destroying crops to feed on the roots: eating these insects, Eastern barred bandicoots help control populations of these species and thus benefit farmers.