Species profile

Black-footed Tree-rat

Black-footed Tree-rat

Range and abundance

The Black-footed Tree Rat inhabits the savannas of northern Australia, from Cape York Peninsula across to the Kimberley in Western Australia. It is uncommon across its range. Populations have declined by an estimated 30-50% in the last decade.

Description

The Black-footed Tree-rat is a large native rodent with a body 250 - 310 mm and tail 320 - 410 mm long, and weighing 650 - 880 g.  It has distinctive markings: the pelage is grey, with much longer black hairs on its back and rump. The ears are very long and black, and the feet and legs are black. The tail is also black and very long, with the last quarter covered in longer pure white hairs.

Ecology

The Black-footed Tree-rat is largely arboreal (tree-dwelling), using its long tail for balance. Typical habitat is tall forests of Darwin Woollybutt and Darwin Stringybark, with a moderately dense mid-storey of shrubs and small trees and grassy understorey. It is nocturnal, sheltering during the day in tree hollows; dens are sometimes made in the dense foliage of Pandanus. Its diet consists of fruit (particularly Pandanus), seeds, insects, flowers and nectar and the green tips of vegetation.  Breeding can occur year-round with a peak of births in the late dry season. Litter size is small (1-3 young).

Threats

Threats include changes in fire regimes and predation by feral cats. Recurrent intense fires reduce the abundance of fleshy-fruited shrubs favoured by Black-footed Tree Rats, as well as the availability of hollow trees. Clearing for agriculture has reduced the extent of their habitat in localised areas including north-east Queensland and parts of the northern Territory.


What is AWC doing?

AWC protects the habitat of the Black-footed Tree-rat on its sanctuaries in northern Australia. AWC implements fire management on its sanctuaries to reduce the incidence of extensive hot late season fires. Fire management and control of feral herbivores helps maintain ground cover, reducing the impact of feral cats on wildlife. AWC ecologists conduct fauna surveys to monitor the persistence of this species on its sanctuaries.

Did you know:

Black-footed Tree Rats have a large home range (up to 70 ha); individuals may cover more than 2 km foraging at night, and use several different nest sites within a home range.