Wombat Anecdotes




Denine Maddaford

I had been hand-rearing marsupials for 10 years and my favourite by far, would have to be the wombat.     They have such interesting personalities.



My first wombat was Winston, named for his remarkable resemblance to a well known British Prime Minister.    He had an intense dislike to being confined to small spaces; I don’t know how he would have survived if he’d had to live in a burrow.   Consequently he didn’t live in a trendy designer wombat box but was assigned to the laundry as his living quarters.   Winston was totally content with these arrangements and guarded his home with his life and like many Hairy-nosed Wombats was very much a one person animal, that person being me.

This privilege allowed me to use the laundry at my leisure.   Unfortunately my flat mate was not so lucky - to do her washing she had to prepare for a battle! Winston seemed to take a great delight in attacking this intruder in his home, usually in the form of ankle biting which is extremely painful when administered by an angry territorial wombat.   Claire, determined not to be outdone by this wombat, placed a box in front of the washing machine to stand on out of ankle biting range.   This apparently did not work.   On hearing blood curdling screams one day, I rushed into the laundry to find her standing on the box wearing knee-length Ugg boots and Winston taking running jumps to attack her knees.   Soon after this incident Winston was fostered out and the last I heard was that he still the head of his new household!



Sherman, (the tank), then arrived and adored his designer wombat box, living in it quite happily inside the house.    Sherman was also a biter, but not quite as obsessive as Winston, at least initially!

It was decided that Sherman would eventually go to Tim Keynes, who was wombatless at the time.    In order to reduce stress at the changeover (for both Tim and Sherman) we gave them as much exposure to each other as possible.  At that time I was helping Tim with a Small Mammal Survey at Second Valley (small coastal area south of Adelaide) that he was conducting with a group of tertiary students.   Sherman and I spent a few weekends there with the group. One particular weekend, while the students were out doing transects, Tim, Sherman and I were sitting on a large mattress that served as a lounge in our primitive living quarters.    We had been up very late the night before playing cards and as a consequence were very tired.   I was reading a book and must have fallen asleep with Sherman snuggled up next to me; Tim also fell asleep on the other side of Sherman.   We were awoken around dusk by ten students bursting into the room only to discover that Sherman had vacated the mattress. No amount of talking could convince them that it was all perfectly innocent and that there had been a wombat in between us when we fell asleep.



Winifred was my next wombat and is still with me.   She was named after my grandmother, who was distressed that out of twelve grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren she didn’t have a name-sake.   This was the best I could do and possibly a mistake.   Like my grandmother Winifred is pig-headed, stubborn, fussy and bad-tempered if she doesn’t get her own way.   She can also be affectionate, intelligent and playful when she wants to be.    As a joey, she excelled in chewing power cords and digging holes in carpets.   She also, like most wombat joeys, would run at full speed around the house and forget to stop when there was an obstacle in front of her, like a brick wall for example.   The results were often a skinned nose and broken teeth.    At these times she’d cuddle up in my arms and suck her “thumb”.    Being a teacher, it was very easy for me to take Winifred to work and she was a great hit with staff and students alike.    She was usually extremely well behaved but had the knack of escaping into the staff-room and disrupting the most boring of staff meetings.   A real bonus!




Tassie was the first Common wombat I ever came to know well.  He came to live at Peg Christian’s as a joey when I was living there.  Tassie was very different to the Hairy-nosed wombats, tending to hammer your ankles with his top front teeth rather than biting - not quite as painful.


When it was time for Tassie to move to his outside enclosure, we dutifully wombat-proofed it for him, much as we would have done for any Hairy-nosed wombat.   On his first “night out” Peg was woken at about 3.OOam by an intruder in her bedroom.    The door slowly opened and in walked Tassie having entered the house through the dog door, and creating havoc before going to see “Mum”.   The next morning his enclosure was thoroughly checked and doubly wombat-proofed around the base of the fence.    The next night was a repeat of the first and we were totally puzzled as to his source of escape.    The mystery was solved that afternoon when I came home and spotted a “Koala’ in a tree next to Tassie’s yard.   Closer observation revealed Tassie 6ft up a fig tree balancing precariously on a branch.    I dropped everything and ran towards him yelling, “There’s a wombat up a tree.”.    Thinking I had gone totally mad, Peg came running out to see what was wrong and helped with the rescue.    Tassie had climbed up the cyclone fencing and into the tree and had obviously been escaping over the fence each night.


Therefore beware - Common Wombats can climb, Hairy-nosed Wombats do not!

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