Wombats hailed as heroes after other animals hide in their burrowed homes during Aussie bushfires

It wasn't exactly part of their plan to help other animals.

Julia Yeo | January 17, 2020, 05:25 PM

Recently, stories and social media posts lauding wombats as the "heroes of the Australian bushfires" have been making their rounds on the Internet.

There have been several claims about the furry creature, native to Australia, shepherding and sharing their burrows with other displaced wildlife as a result of the bushfires, which have possibly taken a billion animal lives.


As heartwarming and sweet these wombat stories are, they are, unfortunately, not entirely true.

Accidental heroes

Many Twitter users picked it up, believing that wombats are the furry heroes doing their part to protect other animals, to the extent of shepherding other animals to their burrows.


However, that's not entirely true, as they didn't heroically round up helpless animals during the bushfires and lead them to safety.

According to ABC News Australia, wombat warrens (networks of burrows) are large and complex, and considerably shielded from the above-ground environment.

Wombats can have several burrows within their home range, and a study in 2012 connected one wombat to 14 burrows.

A wombat usually spends a few nights sleeping in one burrow, before moving to another one later.

They would have a few vacant burrows at a time, and even some abandoned ones, so other species seeking refuge may not need to share burrows with wombats at all.

Uncommon for wombats to welcome visitors

While this has not been thoroughly researched, observations have shown that wombats generally do not welcome other animals in their burrows.

In a book, Wombats, by Barbara Triggs, the author recalls a fox being chased from a burrow by an angry wombat.

Crushed skulls of foxes and dogs found in wombat burrows also suggest that not many intruders are welcome.

Again, it may depend on what type of animal is visiting its burrow, as those that do not pose a threat may not be noticed by the wombat.

So, although wombats didn't intentionally open their homes to other animals to escape the bushfires, their extra burrows have indirectly helped displaced wildlife in Australia by providing temporary refuge.

Top image via beauty.of.animalsss/IG, MNinitiative/Twitter