Upon first glance, the bilby is a confusing little creature. This animal has the ears of a bunny, small-scale kangaroo legs, a long black rat tail, a pointed nose, and is about the size of a small house cat. This little Frankenstein cutie may look like an experiment in animal breeding, but it's an experiment that went oh-so-right.
Bilbies are cute, but what exactly are they? Their secretive nature has made them difficult to study at times but turns out there's quite a bit to these so-called "rabbit bandicoots." Some of their traits are fascinating...and a little unnerving. If you thought rabbits breed like crazy, wait until you hear what these guys manage. They also have a rather sad history. Due to outside animal invaders, bilbies have perched precariously on the edge of extinction multiple times.
Those still wondering "what is a bilby?" get ready for all the facts you need to be an expert in bilby-ness. If you've never heard of these guys, read on, you'll soon be squealing about your new favorite animal.
Bilbies Are Too Hawt To Fear Fire
Fires tend to be a major problem for most species, but it's not always the worst thing for the bilby. Research has shown that bilbies can actually benefit from brush fires, because of the impact that fire has on their habitat. Certain plants grow quickly and well after a fire has passed, and bilbies love to munch on those kinds of plants.
Because they are both smart and pretty, the bilby will hide in their underground burrows until a wildfire has burnt out. Those cute little homes also help the bilby's local ecosystem by providing shelter to other creatures and changing soil conditions, such as temperature and humidity, so seeds will grow.
Bilbies Have Serious Beef With Bunnies
Australia has a serious rabbit problem. They aren't native to Australia and since being introduced there, they have done horrible things to the native animal populations and wildlife. The government has even taken action to control the rabbit problem.
Rabbits have especially proven a pest to the poor bilbies. Rabbits have encroached on the bilby's habitat, food supply, and efforts to poison rabbits have been just as murderous to bilbies as rabbits. Thus Australians would rather see an Easter Bilby over that pest the Easter Bunny. They are actively trying to replace the Easter bunny with the Easter Bilby. Chocolate bilbies are available in stores instead of chocolate bunnies and stories of the Easter Bilby have been written for kids.
Bilbies Know How To Get Busy
Speaking of rabbits, we all know how fast those little critters are known to reproduce. In one month, a rabbit can produce a batch of up to eight or nine baby bunnies. Shockingly, the bilby has the bunny beat in the baby-making business. From mating to birth, a bilby is only pregnant for a maximum of two weeks before having babies, making them one of the fastest reproducing mammals in the world.
Bilbies can also breed at any time of year, as long as there is food in supply for the animals to live on. Bilbies can have up to four babies, though usually have only one or two, and they can reproduce multiple times per year. So, as far as their amorous habits, the bilby puts the bunny to shame.
The Glamorous Bilby Only Lives In Burrow-Mansions
One of the things a bilby is best at is digging. Because they don't like to be out and about during the day, they live in cool, dark burrows deep underground. They have five front toes, with curved claws, that make them excellent at tunneling, and they have back feet similar to a kangaroo, which helps them kick out dirt and move through their burrows.
The burrows themselves are also impressive. Bilbies make their burrows long and spiraling so predators will find it difficult to get in. These burrows may be two meters deep, which doesn't seem all that impressive, until you consider that bilbies tend to have numerous burrows. In fact, each bilby can have up to a dozen burrows to themselves. That's 24 meters of burrow for a single animal. Bilbies really like their space.