Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Brown Antechinus (not a mouse, but in a house)

My neighbour heard scrabbling noises in his young son's wardrobe, and managed to capture the intruder. It was neither a Rat, nor a Mouse, but a Brown Antechinus.
Brown Antechinus - head on
We got it into a kitchen tidy with sides sufficiently high that it could not jump out, to allow some photographs to be taken.
From above it has a fine set of whiskers
a pointy nose, and prominent "bug eyes".
Brown Antechinus seen from above.

This small Marsupial is very agile.
One of the reasons is the fine toenails it is using here 
to try to climb the inside of a plastic Kitchen Tidy (bin).
Brown Antechinus has very fine toe-nails - perfect for climbing.

As I held the little Marsupial in my hand, it was very keen to use its needle-fine teeth to puncture my skin. I gave it a piece of ice-cream stick on which to bite, instead.
By nature, Antechinus are carnivores (as the teeth show), living mostly on small insects, and worms.

The eyes are closed as it is trying to chew hard 
on what was in its mouth. 
But this photo shows the full set 
of this marsupial's carnivorous teeth 
on the lower jaw. (click to enlarge image).
(DJW edit: Photo taken by Matt's wife, Kat.)
Double teeth at back of jaw, and fine "needles" at the front end.
As the little kid, in whose room the Antechinus was found, was not happy about an animal (of any kind) living in his cupboard, and appearing at night to wander around the child's bedroom, we safely relocated it to the my backyard (which is a cat-free zone). Incidentally, she was a non-lactating female, so that ought not be problematic. She is not leaving any youngsters behind. Besides, it is just up the road 100 metres. In fact, she is probably back where she came from as I write. (Lets hope not).

Australian Museum fact sheet on how to tell Antechinus apart from a Mouse notes:
  • "The faeces or 'scat' of small carnivorous marsupials such as the Brown Antechinus do look different to those of a House Mouse under magnification.
  • Visible on the surface of the Antechinus scat should be a variety of fragmented insect parts. 
  • The scat of rodents such as mice (which feed mainly on dry and fresh vegetable matter) is less defined and more uniform in colour"

You may read more about the lifestyle and habits of the Brown Antechinus here.


mick said...

An interesting little creature. Did you immediately notice it wasn't a mouse and if so how? From the photos the shape and size look very like a mouse - not the teeth of course!

Le Loup said...

Definately cute.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Keith
The reports all refer to these little guys as having "attitude".
You can see that in my photos.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick
It is always the issue - how to get a correct ID on the small, furry, running thing in the corner of the house.
To be honest most people would assume it is a Mouse.
My neighbour had inquired previously, and we had primed him on the possibility of it not being a Mouse, but a native animal.
Head shape helps (long nose). Also the tail of a mouse tends to be almost naked (I understand - certainly true with Rats). Also he said that the manner of its movement was different from a Mouse.
He decided it was worth checking out, so gave me a call.
I'm glad he did.
So is the Antechinus, which is still running free.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick (again)
Further checking of internet sites shows Mice have longer tails (relative to body) and yes, the tail is nearly hairless on a Mouse.
Also, when feeding they tend to sit in a hunched pose, as if ready to hold food with front legs.
Antechinus are mostly carnivorous hunters.

Matt said...

Hi Mick,

I'm the lucky neighbour who found the Antechinus in the wardrobe. I don't have a great deal of experience with rats or mice, but the following things alerted me that this was probably neither a baby rat or mouse:

- It ran with a distinct, almost hopping gait.

- Its tail was hairy and the same colour as its body.

- The shape of the nose.

- We've seen other Antechinus in the house at around the same time of night (8-10pm). Rats and mice seem to come out later, when the humans are safely tucked up in bed!

- It is much bolder than a mouse or rat, and doesn't seem to mind things like a lit room. If you stand still with it in the room, it will happily scamper over and check you out. I sat on the floor and put a piece of cheese right next to my knee, and it had no qualms about coming over and nibbling it. (That's how I managed to catch it!) Not sure this would be true of a rat or mouse.

Great pics Denis - thanks for posting!


Denis Wilson said...

Hi Matt

Well, I did comment that most descriptions mention that "Antechinus have attitude".
Matt's story confirms that.
(as do my photos).

Thanks for providing the extra information, Matt.


Joy Window said...

Congratulations on actually catching it - those things can turn on a dime. I remember several of us honours students racing down uni corridors trying to catch one that had escaped the lab.
These days I sometimes see them in the local country hall running along the ceiling beams. You know the term "jizz" that birdwatchers use - well, antechinus have a different "jizz" to feral mice. It also helps to have a non-lethal trap to catch them, too, so you don't dispatch the wrong creature.

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Joy.
Your suggestion of the non-lethal traps is very practical.
My first encounter with an Antechinus was after I had found one dead in a mouse-trap. I was mortified.
So your idea would avoid that problem.
Yes, they are extremely good runners and climbers, and do have a different Jizz about them.

Anika said...

Tonight I finally captured one of the elusive creatures that has been roaming the house for a couple of months now (with its siblings). Incredibly fast, wonderful creatures (with attitude) that don't seem to mind human company. Until you catch one in your hand with a firm grip on its tail and it uses those needle sharp teeth to express its disapproval...
Andie (the Mum) has been nesting in the old stereo speaker box on top of the buffet for a while now, and had about 7 babies who have fanned out across the house. The kids are used to them now, although our three year old sometimes freaks out if they run around his room at night... Implementing a catch and release program in the surrounding bush. Glad to know others are enjoying them too!

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Anika.
Glad you are "enjoying" your local Antechinus family.
Amazing little critters, but yes, with Attitude (capital A).

Anika said...

Aha! The little blighters like chocolate! Easter eggs left on the kitchen bench actually. I was at he computer and heard a crash in the kitchen, and looked over to see a foil-wrapped chocolate bilby making its way across the floor, propelled by a chocoholic antechinus.
It had knocked it from the bench to the floor, and was making off with it. It ran away when I came to investigate, and there were little sharp toothed nibbles out of the chocolate. I removed the foil and put it back on the bench, only to find it had completely disappeared by the next morning! This from creatures who haven't touched any other human food in the last 18 months. I love these guys...

Denis Wilson said...

See, they are very discriminating Animals.
Don't just chew anything.
Lovely story, Anika