Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark
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A common wombat photographed at Dreamworld in Coomera, Australia
Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark

Common wombat

This large, stocky mammal is a marsupial, or pouched animal, found in Australia and on scattered islands nearby. Like other marsupials, the wombat gives birth to tiny, undeveloped young that crawl into a pouch on their mother's belly. A wombat baby remains in its mother's pouch for about five months before emerging. Even after it leaves the pouch, the young animal will frequently crawl back in to nurse or to escape danger. By about seven months of age, a young wombat can care for itself.

It is also called the bare-nosed wombat, to distinguish it from its cousins, the southern and northern hairy-nosed wombats.

Burrow life

Wombats use their strong claws to dig burrows in open grasslands and eucalyptus forests. They live in these burrows, which can become extensive tunnel-and-chamber complexes. Common wombats are solitary and inhabit their own burrows, while other species may be more social and live together in larger burrow groups called colonies.

Vegetarian diet

Wombats are nocturnal and emerge to feed at night on grasses, roots, and bark. They have two rodentlike incisors that never stop growing. They're kept in check by gnawing on some of their tougher vegetarian fare. For reasons not well understood, their feces is cube-shaped.

Conflict with humans

WATCH: Rescued Baby Wombat Frolics and Gets Tickled

George, a wombat joey, was 4-months-old when his mother was hit and killed by car. Fortunately he was rescued and brought to the Australian Reptile Park in New South Wales, Australia.

The field and pasture damage caused by wombat burrowing can be a nuisance to ranchers and farmers. Wombats have been hunted for this behavior, as well as for their fur and simply for sport. The common wombat is still hunted as vermin. Space for all wombats is at a premium as farm and ranch lands increasingly replace natural space.