Australian man mauled in rare attack by wombat

Wednesday 07 April 2010 08:00 BST

A stocky Australian wombat, a marsupial that usually uses its backside as its best defence, came off second best after viciously mauling a man in a rare attack on a human.

The 59-year-old man from rural Victoria state killed the bare nosed wombat with an axe after it mauled him on Tuesday.

"Yes he was attacked by a wombat," an ambulance spokesman said on Wednesday.

"He suffered a number of cuts and bite marks and was treated by a couple of paramedics and taken to the northern hospital."

The bare nosed wombat weights from 20 to 40 kilograms and is about one metre (39 inches) in length. They have very short legs and a large muscular body but are not known for attacking humans.

Best-selling author Jackie French also helped turn the native Australian animal into a creature beloved by children in her classic "Diary of A Wombat".

"I really think it's been a hand raised wombat that has been released and doesn't like people as it's very common for wombats in captivity to not like people," said Brigitte Stevens, director of Wombat Awareness a Rescue Unit in South Australia.

The unit has cared for more than 700 wombats in the last two years and staff have never been bitten by a wild wombat. It's absolutely rare for a wombat like that to attack, she said.

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