An unlikely alliance: Wombat and fox family become housemates 

By Candice Marshall 26 June 2024
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Extraordinary images captured by camera trap show a wombat sharing its burrow with a fox and her cub in northern NSW.

It was recently revealed that wombats will tolerate other species sharing their burrows, particularly in times of hardship such as bushfires and floods.

But the various animals documented to be sharing these burrows have all been harmless species, posing no physical threat to the wombats – until now. 

Images sent to WWF-Australia from a landholder in Murrays Run in the Lower Hunter Valley region of New South Wales clearly show a wombat sharing its burrow with a fox and cub. 

The landholder – who wishes to remain anonymous to the public – sent the images to WWF-Australia after they saw the organisation sharing research showing that wombat burrows provide critical shelter for numerous species following severe bushfires.

The camera trap recorded not just one, but a series of comings and goings on the same night, indicating that the wombat, the fox, and the cub were using the burrow at the same time. This behaviour continued for the four days the camera was in place.

This is the first time a wombat has been found to be sharing its burrow with a predator. 

But don’t wombats crush fox skulls with their bottoms?!

What makes this discovery even more remarkable is that some experts believe wombats actually kill foxes.

The bodies of deceased foxes, dingos and wild dogs are often found at the entrance to burrows. It is believed wombats kill these animals by crushing their skulls between their robust bottoms and the roof of their burrows.

Adding fuel to this theory was a Facebook post that went viral in 2020, showing a photo of a dead fox beside a wombat in a burrow entrance, accompanied by the words “We think the furry feral was outfoxed and crushed to death by a grumpy wombat”:

Katja Gutwein, from Mange Management, a group of volunteers in Victoria who treat mange in wombats in the wild, says a landholder she works with witnessed an “epic battle of wills” between a wombat and a fox.

“The fox tried to take over the wombat’s burrow and each day it would carry vegetation in to create bedding. Each night the indignant wombat would turf out the fox’s bedding. This went on for days until, in the end, the fox gave up,” says Katja. 

Wildlife rescuer and carer Narelle Thompson says she’s also heard similar reports over the years, particularly about female wombats with joeys.

“I was told the female wombat lays flat in the entrance, giving the fox a false sense of assurance that it’s okay to climb over her back. Once the fox is in place, she stands up and crushes the fox between her hard armoured butt and the roof of the burrow,” Narelle says.

“That’s why I find it extremely unusual for a wombat to be sharing its home with a fox. But stranger things have happened!”

Related: Wombat burrows provide refuge from fires