First ventures out of the pouch

The fur grows longer and thickens, more teeth - the pre-molars and second molars - break through the gums, and by seven months the young, which now weighs about two kilograms, probably ventures out of the pouch when the mother is in the burrow. Young wombats as small as this are rarely seen outside the burrow. However, from my observations of semi-tame wombats it appears that, when the young first begins to explore its immediate surroundings, probably in the burrow, it keeps close contact with the mother, its small body always touching hers at some point. From time to time it pushes its head into the pouch to suckle vigorously. The teat has gradually become greatly elongated - as much as 10 centimetres long and thinner than a pencil - and it sometimes even protrudes from the pouch opening. At this stage, too, the young begins to play with its mother, biting and chewing her fur or pouncing on her paws, and she patiently allows it to climb all over her body and drape itself across her neck, even her face, while she sleeps (Plate 18). As soon as she makes a move to rise and leave the burrow, her offspring rapidly scrambles back into the pouch.

Often, when the mother is grazing, the young wombat's head appears between her hind legs, also grazing. In silhouette the wombat seems to have two heads, one at each end, both eating! When the mother moves from one patch of grass to another the young wombat's head is usually above the place she has just left, and it eats where she has just eaten. It may be in this way that the young wombat forms the same food habits as its mother.

By the time it is eight months old, the young wombat is a little more confident when it leaves the pouch. Now it moves short distances from its sleeping parent and even has some digging practice, scraping at the burrow walls with its long sharp claws. In appearance the young wombat's ears seem too large for its head which is still narrow, with a muzzle that is long and pointed in comparison with the short blunt snout of the adult. The rudimentary stub of a tail is still visible, adding to the young wombat's underdeveloped look (see Figure 4.4).

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