BESIEGED BY BANDICOOTS
A few years ago, the Shire of Mundaring in Western Australia wrote to us to say that our property was in a newly-proclaimed wildlife corridor. They needn't have bothered, we were already well aware of that.
I don't know if there is an animal equivalent of the old-time hobo's marks on the fence that alerted the gentlemen of the road to places that were good for a meal and a few bucks, but if there is, our fence must be covered with messages that say "Soft touches live here".
We moved up to the Hills above Perth from the coastal plain and almost at once started having visitors. First it was brushtail possums, then magpies, then bobtail lizards, then kangaroos, and finally bandicoots. It progressed from an occasional crust of bread to a regular supply of peanuts, which are served up in an old enamel plate. At times as many as four bandicoots show up of an evening, all in search of a handout.
The small marsupials come in through cat door on the porch and if the dish is empty, they bang it on the bricks until someone comes out with peanuts. Two of the bolder ones will enter the kitchen and come into the living room to peer at us until we get up and find the peanuts. If there are no peanuts, the bandicoots will eat cat food, toast and jam, raisins, potato chips-anything they can find.
The cats don't seem to mind the bandicoots, and on occasion I've found a cat eating kibbles from one side of the dish while a bandicoot eats from the other.
I wasn't aware the bandicoots had learned anything from the cats other than how to use the cat door and where to find the kibble dish. Then one night's experience showed how much more they'd learned.
There was a scratching on the front screen door which pulled my attention from a not very interesting television show.
Getting up to let the pets in, I realised that the cats were already asleep on the sofa. What was trying to get in the front door?
Switching on the outside light, I saw a small grey-brown animal crouched on the ground. I opened the door slowly. "What do you want?" I asked.
With a small "whuff" noise, it trotted into the living room. Its nails clicking on the tiles, it pattered across the room, through the dining room, and stood waiting by the back door. This maneuver had saved the beast from having to walk all the way around the house to its usual entry point.
"Great, now I'm a doorman for bandicoots" I said, opening the door and watching it trot out onto the porch. There it grabbed the edge of the empty dish and banged it on the brick floor.
I sighed and filled the dish with peanuts. The bandicoot began eating, looking over its shoulder at me every so often. I found a few wrinkled grapes and added them to the dish.
I returned to the sofa. One of the cats opened an eye, winked, and went back to sleep. I sat pondering the saying "Dogs have masters, cats have staff." Obviously this applies to bandicoots also. I am comforted by the thought that if St. Francis ever gets door duty at the Pearly Gates, I'll be a shoo-in.