Native Animals

The City’s natural areas are home to a variety of native animals, including turtles, bats and bandicoots. Please take care with wildlife in Cockburn. Contact Native ARC if you see an injured native animal.

Living with native animals 

Cockburn is lucky to have large areas of natural habitat for wildlife to live in. Most native animals are easily scared and will move off quickly if startled. If you come across a native animal, keep calm and quiet. Some of the common wildlife you may come across are:

  • Bandicoots*
  • Bats*
  • Birds
  • Bobtail Lizards: most active during spring and summer
  • Frogs: most active during winter and spring
  • Water Birds: active all year round
  • Snakes: most active during spring and summer
  • Bandicoots: active all year round
  • Southwestern snake-necked turtles*
*Detailed information is provided below.


Bandicoots are a marsupial with a smallish body, rounded ears and a pointed head. They have coarse dark grey or yellow- brown fur above and creamy-white fur underneath, with a tapered dark brown tail. Bandicoots eat insects, small vertebrates and plant matter.

There are six native bandicoot species in Western Australia. Quenda is the Aboriginal name given to the sub-species that is only found in WA's southwest and the Western Australian Quenda can be found in Cockburn.

The Quenda is a protected and priority listed species in WA. They live in dense scrubby, sometimes swampy vegetation and may often be found in the bushland of urban areas and properties. The main threat to the Quenda is a loss of habitat due to development as well as predators such as foxes, cats and dogs.


There are two types of bats native to Western Australia: megabats (Flying-foxes) and microbats (insectivorous bats). Megabats weigh over a kilogram and feed mainly on fruits and nectars. Microbats mainly feed on insects and can be as small as 40mm long. Both bats are active in the evening and can be observed when feeding at dusk. Most bats cause no problems at all and form part of a natural ecosystem by being pest control agents. Bats will generally not interact with people unless by mistake or if distressed or threatened. Bats are unlikely to cause any physical harm unless injured, cornered or captured.

If a flying fox roosts in your backyard it should be left alone as it is likely to move on within a few days. Microbats can roost under eaves and shingles and can enter living spaces through very small gaps of 1cm diameter. If they are not causing a nuisance there may be no need to evict them, however if they are causing problems, they can be deterred by blocking entry points. Bats help to reduce numbers of flying insects like midge and mosquitoes.

Please note that bats are a protected species that may carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans. Bats may not be captured, moved or relocated without a permit and must be handled by a professional. The City has invested in bat boxes located in trees in selected conservation reserves to help promote bat activity.

Southwestern snake-necked turtles 

The Southwestern snake-necked turtle (Chelodina colliei) is native to Western Australia. You will find it in seasonal and permanent fresh water areas such as lakes, rivers and swamps. The City is involved with current research on the turtle to better understand its biology and how we can protect them. You can get involved by joining programs like Turtle Watch opens in a new window or Turtle Trackers.

Turtle Trackers - Citizen Science Program

The Turtle Trackers program is dedicated to providing information about the Long-Necked Turtle and encourages community members to report turtle sightings in support of scientific research.  Volunteers are needed to help protect turtles during nesting season (September-November). If you would like to get involved please contact the City’s Environmental Education Officer by phoning 08 9411 3444 or email us.

Turtle distribution and habitat 

The turtle is found in waterways of the Perth metropolitan area and throughout the south west, extending north to Hill River, inland to Toodyay, Pingelly and Katanning and east along to the south coast to the Fitzgerald River National Park. The turtle is found in permanent and seasonal freshwater habitats including rivers, lakes, farm dams, swamps, damplands and natural and constructed wetlands.

Physical features and behaviours 

The turtle has a long neck, and an adult carapace (upper shell) of between 20 and 30cm which is dark brown or black. Its long neck is almost the length of its shell with adults reaching up to 50cm in length. Hatchlings have a carapace roughly the size of a 20 cent coin.

The females leave the water in search of suitable sandy soils to lay eggs between September and March each year. They can lay up to 16 leathery eggs. Females may travel long distances during breeding months to fi­nd appropriate nesting sites. Freshwater turtles are able to drop their body temperature, slow their pulse rate and use stored body fat instead of eating to survive in hot dry conditions. Sometimes they bury themselves in mud or under leaves or logs, conserving body fluids until conditions are more habitable. This ability is known as aestivation. When this occurs turtles can be more vulnerable to predators and human activity such as clearing and groundworks.

Threats to the Southwestern snake-necked turtle  

The turtles travel up to one kilometre to lay eggs away from waterways. Many are hit by motor vehicles and killed when crossing nearby roads. September to March is the most vulnerable period as females travel away from water to lay eggs, and then return hatchlings to the water.

Predation and poaching 

Feral animals are a significant threat to the native turtle. Predators include crowns, birds of prey, cats, dogs and foxes. Turtle poaching for pets is illegal but is also a threat. Foxes are currently the only major predator to prey on turtles in this district, particularly attacking their eggs. Because foxes are an introduced species, the turtle has not been able to develop sufficient defences against it. This plays a role in decreasing turtle populations.

Habitat loss and poor water quality 

Increased development around wetland areas leads to disjointed and reduced habitat for turtles. Urbanised wetlands in metropolitan areas also contain high nutrient levels (nitrogen and phosphorus) and heavy metals such as magnesium, mercury and copper which affect water quality. Turtles may ingest, inhale and absorb polluted water. Turtle shells that are heavily covered in algae suggest high nutrient levels in the water.

Southwestern snake-necked turtle FAQs

What should I do if I see an injured turtle?
Please make sure that the turtle is actually injured, before you intervene. A turtle may be injured by a car or attacked by a dog in which case it won't be moving much. If the turtle appears lethargic and dehydrated it is probably injured. Contact Native ARC if you find a turtle in the City of Cockburn. Turtles can make remarkable recoveries from serious injuries.
If instructed to handle a turtle, grasp the turtle around the middle of the carapace (upper shell) and hold the animal away from your body. This way you avoid the hind legs that may cause minor scratches by their small claws. Holding the turtle away from your body will also avoid any bodily secretions from the turtle.
Can I keep a turtle as a pet?
No. Catching and keeping turtles as pets is illegal and is also a threat to population numbers.
What do turtles eat?
The natural turtle diet includes frogs, fish and macroinvertebrates (animals with no backbone) such as insects, crustaceans, snails and worms. Turtle hatchlings may also eat aquatic plants and midge and mosquito larvae. This helps the natural ecosystem by controlling possible nuisance midge outbreaks.
What should I do if I see a turtle far away from the waters edge?
Check there are no threats close by and then leave the turtle alone and keep pets away. The turtle may need to be moved if it is found on a road. In this case if the road is quiet, it is best to stop, assist the turtle to cross in the same direction it was travelling and then leave it alone. If you catch a turtle and return it to the water, it will then have to make the dangerous trip again, which increases its risk of being injured or killed. Call your nearest Turtle Watch Helpline or go to the Climate Watch website opens in a new window and record your lucky sighting!
How long does it take for turtle eggs to hatch?
Turtle eggs take between 26-41 weeks to hatch, depending on weather conditions and temperature. Turtle eggs often hatch in June or July.
Can Southwestern snake-necked turtles retract into their shells?
It is a common misconception that Southwestern snake-necked turtles are able to protect themselves by retracting into their shell. Southwestern snake-necked turtles cannot pull their head or limbs into their shell.
How long do Southwestern snake-necked turtles live for?
Turtles have a long lifespan, which is often over 40 years.
What's the difference between a turtle and a tortoise?
A ‘turtle’ is water dwelling and a ‘tortoise’ is land dwelling. Turtles also have a fl­at shell with webbed feet and claws or fl­ippers. Tortoises have a domed shell with short, sturdy bent legs.
Why do female turtles leave the waterways at a certain time of the year?
Female turtles travel up to one kilometre from waterways, searching for an appropriate area to nest and lay eggs. Make sure there are no threats to the turtle such as pets, leave the turtle alone and enjoy your lucky sighting. If unsure contact Native ARC or your nearest TurtleWatch Helpline.
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9 Coleville Crescent,
Spearwood 6163

PO Box 1215, Bibra Lake DC,
Western Australia, 6965

Language Support

Cockburn Nyungar moort Beeliar boodja-k kaadadjiny. Koora, yeyi, benang baalap nidja boodja-k kaaradjiny.
Ngalak kaadatj dayin boodja, kep wer malayin. Ngalak kaadatj koora koora wer yeyi ngalang birdiya.

City of Cockburn acknowledges the Nyungar people of Beeliar boodja. Long ago, now and in the future they care for country.
We acknowledge a continuing connection to land, waters and culture and pay our respects to the Elders, past, present and emerging.