Bare-nosed Wombat

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The bare-nosed wombat, also known as the common wombat,  is the world's largest burrowing herbivorous mammal. Indeed, it is such an accomplished burrower that early settlers called it a 'badger', a term that is still heard today. However, the closest relative of the wombat is, in fact, the koala. With its short tail and legs, characteristic waddle and 'cuddly' appearance, the wombat is one of the most endearing of Australia's native animals. 



The bare-nosed wombat occurs in Tasmania, southern Queensland, eastern New South Wales and eastern Victoria with remnant populations in south-eastern South Australia and south-western Victoria. There are two other species of wombat, both found on mainland Australia - the southern hairy-nosed wombat and the threatened northern hairy-nosed wombat.

There are three subspecies of bare-nosed wombat – Vombatus ursinus hirsutus which is found on the Australian mainland, the Tasmanian wombat, Vombatus ursinus tasmaniensis, which is found in Tasmania and the Flinders Island wombat,Vombatus ursinus ursinus, which was once found throughout the Bass Strait islands but is now restricted to Flinders Island, and was introduced to Maria Island.

Wombats can be seen in a number of Tasmania’s national parks, including Mt William and Cradle Mountain National Park. More information about these national parks can be found on the Parks and Wildlife website​.


The wombat is a fairly large, solidly built animal with a squat, round, bearlike body, small ears and eyes, and a large naked nose. Its thick, coarse fur varies in colour from sandy brown to grey and black and is sometimes flecked with fawn.

Often their true colour is obscured by the colour of the dirt or clay in which they have been digging. On the mainland, bare-nosed wombats average 1 m in length and 27 kg in weight yet can reach up to 1.2 m in length and up to 35 kg in weight. The Tasmanian wombat is not as large or bulky, averaging 85 cm in length and 20 kg in weight, while the Flinders Island wombat is smaller still averaging only 75 cm in length.

Wombat PrintsThey have short legs, large paws and long, strong claws which are used in the excavation of burrows. The forepaws are used for digging and, after pushing the dirt to one side the wombat will back out, moving the loose dirt with both the front and back paws. It differs from all other marsupials by having a single pair of upper and lower incisors (front teeth). These teeth are never ground away as they are both rootless and never stop growing, which is just as well as the wombat often uses them for cutting through obstructions, much like a beaver! Being marsupials, female wombats have a pouch that in their case opens backward to prevent dirt and debris entering while burrowing.


In Tasmania, the wombat is widespread and found from sea level to alpine areas but shows a preference for grassland, heathland, coastal scrub and open forest where soils favour their burrowing habits. In Queensland and northern New South Wales it occurs only in sclerophyll forest above 600 m above sea level, whereas in southern New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria they also occur at lower elevatons and in more open vegetation such as woodlands, coastal scrub and heathland. Wombats often dig their burrows in the areas above creeks and gullies. Burrows can be up to 20 m long and more than 2 m below the ground and have numerous connecting tunnels and entrances. There may also be more than one nest in the burrow, which they make from sticks, leaves and grasses.

Foraging wombats video


Wombats are mostly nocturnal, usually coming out at night to graze when temperatures are lower, as well as late afternoon. During cold periods they may sometimes be seen about during the day either grazing or basking in the sun. However, in some parts of Tasmania such as Maria Island wombats are more active during the day than during the night. They graze for between three and eight hours a night, during which time they may travel many kilometres and visit up to four burrows within their home range to rest or tidy up the burrow. Although they are solitary animals, with only one wombat inhabiting any one burrow, the overlap of home ranges does occasionally result in a number of wombats using the same burrow.

To avoid the overlap of feeding areas they use scent-marking, and at time, vocalisations and aggressive displays, including biting each other. Wombats not only leave their burrow to graze but will also spend time rubbing themselves against logs or branches. If used often enough, these rubbing posts may be recognised by their worn or polished appearance.

The distinctive cube-shaped scats of the wombat are a useful indication of its comings and goings. Any new object within a home range is a prime target for marking with scat, particularly if it is elevated. Fa​​​​​llen trees, fresh mushrooms, rocks and even an upright stick have been found with scats on top! The cube-shaped scats less likely to roll off such objects.

Recent research has shown how cubed-shaped scats are formed. The scats begin to appear around a metre from the end of their 9 m long intestine; this part of the colon is very dry suggeting a water-saving function. Regular variations in the muscle thickness around the circumference of the wombat's colon sharpens the corners of the scats as it descends down their intestine.​

The rump​​ of the wombat is covered by a very tough, thick skin. If threatened, a wombat will dive into a nearby burrow or hollow log, using its rump as protection from the teeth and claws of its attacker. The wombat is also capable of crushing attackers against the burrow roof. In Tasmania, their natural predators are Tasmanian devils and eagles, while no doubt the thylacine also once preyed upon them.


Although the wombat may breed at any time of the year, mating most often occurs during winter. The female has two teats in her pouch yet despite this, 30 days after mating, only one young is born. The juvenile remains in the pouch for six months, after which it stays with the female until it is 18 months old. From the time the juvenile leaves the pouch, it reduces its milk consumption and increases the amounts of plant material eaten. At about 15 months old, it stops suckling altogether. Sexual maturity is reached at two years of age and wombats live for more than five years in the wild. Due to the long period of time that the young is dependent on the mother, it is likely that females rear only one young every two years. However, if the young dies early, or if conditions are good enough for it to leave the pouch early, she may raise another.


The diet of the wombat is composed entirely of plant material. Its main food is native grasses but shrubs, roots, sedges, bark and herbs are also eaten, while moss seems to be a particular delicacy. At times of food shortages, they may dig up sections of dead grass to get at the roots. When feeding, the front feet of wombats are surprisingly dextrous – they can pick up vegetation with one foot and 'hand' it to the mouth! 


Wombat Population Trends in Tasmania

Wombat numbers are monitored as part of NRE Tas's Tasmanian Spotlight Survey program. Monitoring of the wombat population has been undertaken since 1985 throughout northern, central and eastern Tasmania. 

Overall, between 1985 and 2023 the wombat population on mainland Tasmania increased by 61%. Over the past 10 years (2014–2023), the wombat population on mainland Tasmania decreased by 7%. In the Central North, the wombat population has dcreased sicne 2007 coincinding with the sarcoptic mange outbreak in this part of the State.

The report below contains a more detail summary of wombat population trends and mange prevalence in Tasmania

Additional Resources

​Carver S, Charleston M, Hocking GJ, Gales R & Driessen MM (2021). Long-term Spatiotemporal Dynamics and Factors Associated with Trends in Bare-Nosed Wombats. Journal of Wildlife Management 83, 449–461.

Carver S, Stannard GL & Martin AM (2024). The distinctive biology and characteristics of the bare-nosed wombat Vombatus ursinus). Annual Review of Animal Biosciences 12, 135-160.

Driessen , M. M,., Gales, R,., Hehn, K,., Dewar, E,. and& G. Dobner (2020). Wombat gates effectively exclude browsing animals from pasture and allow passage of common wombats. Australian Mammalogy 42: 375-379.

Driessen MM, Dewar E, Carver S, and Gales R (2022). Conservation status of common wombats in Tasmania I: incidence of mange and its significance. Pacific Conservation Biology 28, 103-114.

Driessen MM, Dewar E, Carver S, Lawrence C, & Gales R (2022). Conservation status of common wombats in Tasmania II: population distribution and trends, and the incidence and significance of roadkill.  Pacific Conservation Biology 28, 115-123. 

Knoblauch W, Carver S, Driessen MM, Gales R, & Richards SA (2023). Abundance and population growth estimates for bare-nosed wombats. Ecology and Evolution 13.​

Baker, A. and Gynther, I.C. (ed). (2023). Strahan's Mammals of Australia 4th edition. Reed New Holland ​Books, NSW

Triggs, B. (2009). Wombats 2nd Edition. CSIRO Publishing