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Wombats: Vombatidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Wombats are nocturnal, active at night. During the day they rest in their burrows, which can be 100 feet (30 meters) long and 6 to 7 feet (1.8 to 2.1 meters) deep. The burrows usually have several entrances and side branches and are large enough for a small adult to fit into them. The southern hairy-nosed wombat builds particularly complex tunnel systems that it may share with other wombats.

Even when they share tunnels, wombats feed alone and are territorial about their feeding grounds. They mark their personal areas with scent and droppings, and act aggressively toward other wombats that move into their territory. Usually, male animals must leave their birth area to find a new territory, but it is the female wombats that are driven out of their birth area and are forced to find new feeding grounds when they mature.


In 1960 Peter "PJ" Nicholson was a fifteen year old student at Timbertops, a rural Australian boarding school. PJ became fascinated with wombats. For a year, he sneaked out at night and crawled down wombat burrows. He was patient, visiting often and letting the wombats become comfortable with him. Eventually he traveled 70 feet (21 meters) inside the tunnels to the wombat nests. The measurements and maps that he made of the tunnels were published, and his information is still used by scientists. PJ Nicholson later earned a degree in economics, although he never lost his interest in wildlife.

Wombats, like all marsupial mammals, have short pregnancies and give birth to a single tiny, underdeveloped newborn. Pregnancy lasts only about twenty-two days. After birth, the young crawl to the mother's pouch and remain there attached to a teat, nipple, for six to nine months. After leaving the pouch, the young wombat stays with the mother for another year, gradually nursing less and eating more plant material, until it is finally weaned, not nursing, and independent. Wombats become capable of reproducing when they are two years old. They live more than five years in the wild and have lived up to seventeen years in captivity.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsWombats: Vombatidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Common Wombat (vombatus Ursinus): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, WOMBATS AND PEOPLE