Understanding Mange

When you encounter a mangy wombat, you might wonder: What happened to them? Mange, caused by Sarcoptes Scabei mites, is more than a skin disease. Comparable to human scabies, this affliction is a grave threat, causing unimaginable suffering to wombats.

The Reality of Mange:

  • Mange is a relentless skin disease that rapidly multiplies, caused by a tiny mite from the arachnid family (8-legged), a parasite Sarcoptes Scabeii
  • The female mite can lay 2-3 eggs per day, increasing the mite load exponentially
  • It induces severe allergic reactions, making wombats itch intensely, leading to deep self-inflicted wounds.
  • Externally, the thick skin plaques, caused by their allergic reaction, are constricting and painful.
  • Wounds are prone to infection and flystrike (maggots).
  • Internally, these mites wreak havoc, damaging intestines and organs, leading to organ failure and, eventually, death.
  • The impact is not just skin-deep; it’s an animal welfare crisis, a nightmare for these gentle creatures and those who try to save them

Where did mange come from:

Sarcoptic mange has been present in Australia for approximately 200 years, brought here by settlers and their animals. It has slowly spread to our wildlife and in recent decades has exponentially increased and affected wombats in particular.

Symptoms of mange:

  • Gill-like striations on the sides
  • Hair loss
  • Crusting of the skin into thick plaques
  • Crusting of eyes and ears leading to deaf- and blindness (temporary),
  • Constant itching
  • Sleeplessness
  • Inability to absorb nutrients
  • Inability to defend itself
  • Significant weight loss
  • Organ failure and ultimate death.

Why is it so important to treat it?

Mange poses significant animal welfare and wider conservation concerns. The effects of mange is significant in causing suffering and will lead to the wombat’s death if not treated.

It is however very treatable. Once properly treated the wombat should fully recover.

The challenge is that the wombat burrow is most likely still infected with mites as they can survive without a host in a burrow (perfect temperature and humidity) for up to 3 weeks.

Mange is spreading slowly but consistently and has affected an estimated 70% of wild Bare-Nosed wombat populations.

Treatment method 1: Burrow Flap with Cydectin (active ingredient: Moxidectin)

Made from a wireframe, ice cream lid and vegemite jar lid, this device is easily installed in front of an active burrow with medicine placed in the small lid.

Once the wombat enters or exits their burrow, the medicine will dispense onto their back.

This method is used when you are not able to apply medicine directly onto the wombat due to them being nocturnal, too flighty or during population size treatment programs. It has an approximate 65% success rate (spillage due to wombat playing with or avoiding flap).


  • The effective dosage to treat mange is 20ml per dose
  • The dosage regime is weekly treatments of all active burrows for 15 weeks
  • A cheaper option ($1.5 per single dose)
  • Eradicates mange in the entire environment if all active burrows are treated so re-infection is slowed down
  • Off-label permit allows treaters to use any medicine with this active ingredient
  • Time and labour intensive

Treatment method 2: Pole and scoop with Bravecto (active ingredient: Fluralaner)

Direct application of medicine by using an extendable broom or painting pole with a cup or bottle fixed to the end.

This method requires stealth and silence to sneak up on the wombat but has a higher success rate than burrow flaps.

It is however more challenging to approach a wild wombat as they may bolt and run and in most cases, this is only possible when the wombat is quite unwell. Once they feel better it will be harder to use this method.


  • Effective dosage is based on weight (similar to dosage instructions for dogs)
  • An expensive option ($80 per single dose)
  • Used primarily with pole and scoop
  • Depending on the severity of mange, it can require up to 2 or sometimes 3 doses in extreme cases
  • Doses are administered monthly
  • Cost intensive
  • Shorter timespan to observe results
  • Does not remove mites from the environment so re-infection is more likely

How to identify mange vs bitemarks

Bitemarks Video

Sometimes what is seen as mange, could be bitemark.

Mange is usually first seen on the wombat’s sides, feet and belly. Gill-like vertical lines (striations) where hair loss started in the skin folds on their sides.

Bitemarks are usually on the rump, bum and head.