1. Home
  2. Fun Animal Facts
  3. Northern Bettong: 17 Facts You Won’t Believe!


Kidadl Team

SEPTEMBER 06, 2021

Northern Bettong: 17 Facts You Won’t Believe!

One of the interesting northern bettong facts is that it has a black crest at the end of its tail.

The northern bettong is a marsupial that is endemic to Australia. It is found particularly in north Queensland in the Wet Tropics rainforest. In this habitat range, the bettong is found only in two places, Mt. Spurgeon and the Lamb range and it is mostly spotted in the Lamb range of southwest Cairns. The northern bettong lives in underground burrows in the Eucalyptus woodlands and sheoaks forests. It is also capable of reproducing all year round but is mostly a solitary creature. The northern bettong feeds mostly on fungi truffles and lives for four to six years in the wild. The northern bettong appearance is mostly gray and it also has a prehensile tail that it uses to collect nesting materials. The most notable thing about the northern bettong species is that there are only 1,150-2,500 individuals left. The populations have majorly declined due to predators like feral cats and also due to irregular fire regimes, which result in abundant forest growth, thereby destroying the northern bettong's underground shelter and food sources.

For more relatable content, check out these gopher facts and black rat fun facts pages.

Northern Bettong Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a northern bettong?

The northern bettong (Bettongia tropica) is a marsupial and a 'rat-kangaroo'.

What class of animal does a northern bettong belong to?

The northern bettong belongs to the Mammalia class of animals.

How many northern bettongs are there in the world?

There are only 1,000-2,500 individuals of the northern bettong species left in the world. Some estimates believe the population maybe even lower, moving this species towards imminent extinction.

Where does a northern bettong live?

The northern bettong species is native to Australia. More specifically, the northern bettong habitat range is limited to the Wet Tropics rainforest in far north Queensland. There used to be four population spaces available to the northern bettong species. They were Mt. Windsor in Cooktown's south-west, Mt. Spurgeon close to Brooklyn, Cairns south-west's Lamb Range, and the Coane range's Mount Zero-Taravale in Townsville's northwest.

As of today, the northern bettong population is only found in two places, the Lamb range and the Mt. Spurgeon. The Lamb range has the majority of the population, and Mt. Spurgeon only has about 100 individuals or fewer.

What is a northern bettong's habitat?

Northern bettongs (or rat kangaroos) are found in the rainforest and sclerophyll forests of the Wet Tropics. Within these habitats, the species inhabits underground burrows in Eucalyptus woodlands and Allocasuarina (sheoaks) forests.

Who do northern bettongs live with?

Northern bettongs (or rat kangaroos) are solitary creatures. These Endangered animals spend the entire day in their nests and emerge at night to forage for fungi truffles and other food.

How long does a northern bettong live?

Northern bettongs (or rat kangaroos) live for four to six years in the wild. With proper habitat and care, these Queensland bettongs can live up to 15 years.

How do they reproduce?

Northern bettongs reproduce by mating and giving birth to live offspring.

These Endangered Australian bettongs can reproduce throughout the year, giving birth up to three times in an optimal year. There is no concrete breeding season and a single joey is born at a time. The joey attaches itself to one of the teats and stays there for close to 100 days. Actual reproduction rates are possibly very low since the northern bettong is an endangered species.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of the northern bettong (Bettongia tropica) species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature is Endangered.

Northern Bettong Fun Facts

What do northern bettongs look like?

The northern bettong is a small 'rat-kangaroo' with a tail as long or slightly longer than its head-to-body length. The overall fur and pelage are a soft gray color that is darker on the upper half and paler on the lower half. One of the most distinctive features of the northern bettong is the low black crest on the distal, upper part of its prehensile tail. The fore-limbs are very short and are held very close to its body when moving. The nails of the northern bettong are long and come in handy while digging. The hind legs are delicate, the back is rounded, and the head is held low. Both the males and females are similar in appearance.

Northern bettongs look similar to the woylies that inhabit western Australia.

The overall fur of the northern bettong is a soft gray color.
* We've been unable to source an image of a northern bettong and have used an image of rufous bettong instead. If you are able to provide us with a royalty-free image of a northern bettong we would be happy to credit you. Please contact us at [email protected]

How cute are they?

Northern bettongs are quite cute animals. These Australian bettongs are small and have plain gray fur. They have cute small ears and long, strong tails that can carry nest materials.

How do they communicate?

Like other bettongs, northern bettongs communicate through smell. These Queensland bettongs dig for food, so touch is also important. They are vocal as well, with adult females possibly using 'tsk-tsk' sounds to call their joeys. They may also possibly use pheromones present in their feces, urine, and scent glands to communicate with other bettongs. Northern bettongs are also keen listeners.

How big is a northern bettong?

Northern bettongs have an overall length of 25.2 in (64 cm), including their tail.

How fast can a northern bettong move?

The exact speeds of the northern bettong species are not known.

How much does a northern bettong weigh?

The northern bettong weighs an average of 42.3 oz (1.2 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

Males and females of the northern bettong species do not have specific names.

What would you call a baby northern bettong?

A baby northern bettong is called a joey.

What do they eat?

The northern bettong diet consists of mushrooms, truffles, grassroots, scrub, tubers, fruits, herbs, cockatoo grass, lilies, sedges, and seeds.

Their predators include cats like feral cats, cattle, pigs, and horses.

Are they dangerous?

No, northern bettongs are not dangerous.

Would they make a good pet?

Northern bettongs would not make good pets, nor should they be attempted to be taken as pets. These Australian bettongs are Endangered animals in danger of extinction, and they need human support. Their lost habitats should be restored so that they can repopulate themselves.

Did you know...

Northern bettongs play a vital role in the forest ecosystem. These Queensland bettongs eat fruiting fungi truffles. When they eat truffles, the spores are digested without any harm by northern bettongs. Bettongs also germinate the spores and help scatter these around to be reintroduced in the ecosystem. The fungal spores keep on regenerating to be used by multiple generations in the same forest ecosystem.

In Queensland, the Emu Creek, Davies Creek, and the Tinaroo Creek are included in the northern bettong habitat.

Why is the northern bettong endangered?

There are many reasons for the endangerment of the northern bettong. The most noticeable is the predation by animals like feral cats. Climate change is another reason. The extended periods of forest drought are likely to decrease the northern bettong habitat distribution since it causes the productivity of its food sources to decline. The population of the Coane range has declined because of climate change.

Another cause is the loss of forest habitat in Queensland caused by changes in the fire regimes of wet forests. There has been a reduction in the natural fire occurrence in the Eucalyptus forests in the native Wet Tropics habitat in North Queensland. There has been a capture of great areas in the forests by plants that have grown due to irregular and low-intensity fire regimes. These include Allocasaurina and the lantana weed. These irregular fire intervals have decreased the open and grassy understorey that the northern bettong relies on for shelter and food.

There has also been competition from pigs who eat cockatoo grass tubers and truffles, the same food preferred by the northern bettong. Horses and cattle also compete with northern bettongs for food, which also reduces their shelter. Livestock grazing in the same habitat also destroys the fungi northern bettongs eat.

In the past, the northern bettong population of north Queensland is thought to have lost its habitat due to logging and tree harvesting. Inappropriate use of government land, activities like timber extraction, water catchment, and tourism, camping also prove harmful to northern bettongs. However, the Mt Zero-Taravale sanctuary is now mainly managed with the objective of conserving and providing support to the northern bettong family.

One of the more devastating future threats to the northern bettong population is the predation by species like red foxes. Red fox predators have occasionally been spotted in the same range as the northern bettong habitats, and if they get established there, they, along with feral cats, will prove catastrophic to the northern bettong species, possibly drive them to extinction.

What are the adaptations of a northern bettong?

A natural adaptation of the northern bettong is the strong, prehensile tail that is capable of carrying nesting materials. Northern bettongs have not adapted well to the various threats they face, be it habitat loss due to irregular fires and climate change, predation by feral cats, or competition for food by cattle, pigs, and horses. These changes may be happening too fast for this species, and yet another change may come too soon in the face of red fox predation.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals from our nutria facts or the tree kangaroo fun facts pages.

You can occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable northern bettong coloring pages.


* Please note that the main image is of a brush-tailed bettong, not a northern bettong. If you have an image of a northern bettong, please let us know at [email protected]

Get The Kidadl Newsletter
1,000's of inspirational ideas direct to your inbox for things to do with your kids.

By joining Kidadl you agree to Kidadl’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy and consent to receiving marketing communications from Kidadl.

In need of more inspiration?