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Bandicoot

The endearing eastern barred bandicoot is a small marsupial characterised by a slender, elongated head tapering to a pink nose and well whiskered muzzle. It has large, prominent ears. Its soft fur is greyish brown, while across the hindquarters are the characteristic pale bars or stripes that give the species its name. These easily distinguish it from the brown bandicoot, which lacks such strips. The belly, feet and short, thin tail are creamy white.

In Tasmania, young are born between late May and December. During a single breeding season a female may produce 3-4 litters with a litter size of 1-4 young. Thus a female bandicoot can potentially give birth to as many as 16 young in one year. By way of comparison, rabbits give birth to between 11 and 25 young per year, depending on environmental conditions.

Although the eastern barred bandicoot has a very high reproductive rate, mortality - particularly among juveniles - is extremely high. The causes of mortality are not well known, but predators and disease appear to be the main agents. The life-span of the eastern barred bandicoot is less than 3 years.

Eastern barred bandicoots spend their day resting in nests. These are usually no more than a shallow depression in the ground with a dome of grass pulled over the top. Only one adult bandicoot occupies a nest, although young may share the nest with their mother for a week after they first leave the pouch. After dusk, they emerge and immediately begin foraging for food. Bandicoots are solitary animals and only mix with others when breeding.

Barred bandicoots eat mainly invertebrates from the soil. They locate their food using their well developed sense of smell. Then they use their strong claws and pointed nose to dig small conical holes from which they extract food. Their favourite food items include root-eating grubs such as cockchafers and corbies. They also feed on beetles, earthworms, berries and fungi.

The eastern barred bandicoot is considered threatened because the species is potentially at risk of becoming extinct. This may seem surprising to many Tasmanians, as barred bandicoots are still common in parts the state. However, the eastern barred bandicoot is now extinct in South Australia and 'critically endangered' in Victoria, where the population has been reduced to a mere 200 individuals. Before Europeans arrived in Tasmania, the eastern barred bandicoot mainly lived in the native grasslands and grassy woodlands of the Midlands. These habitats were the first to be cleared for agriculture and grazing. The eastern barred bandicoot has now largely disappeared from the Midlands region.

A similar process of large-scale clearing, as well as predation by introduced foxes, was also responsible for the drastic decline of this species on mainland Australia. Widespread clearing of remnant native bush, and also the removal of ground cover including some weeds, can convert prime barred bandicoot habitat into a wasteland in which the species cannot survive. This occurred over much of the Midlands.

In the absence of foxes, selective clearing in Tasmania's southeast and north has provided suitable agricultural habitats for the barred bandicoot to colonise. These areas of improved pasture interspersed with patches of native bush are now the stronghold of the species in Tasmania. Barred bandicoots also use a variety of weeds, including European gorse and blackberries, as nesting sites and as a refuge from predators.

Cats and dogs kill bandicoots, and may cause significant mortality in some populations. Cats carry the disease Toxoplasmosis, which can be transmitted to eastern barred bandicoots and is often fatal. We can reduce the impact of our pets on wildlife by keeping pets indoors at night. This stops them hunting when barred bandicoots are out feeding in the open. Preventing your dog from roaming means it has less opportunity to flush bandicoots from their nests during the day.


Common Wombat

It is distinguishably from its cousins the Southern, and Northern Hairy nosed wombats mainly by its nose which is "naked", smaller ears and a more rounded head and longer fur due to its living in a colder part of Australia.

These marsupials are strong, stout and sturdy and built close to the ground, and can move most things in their way, like farmers fences, so hence their "nick name" of the "Bulldozers of the Bush". Adults weigh in between 17kg and 40kg in a body length of between 80 cm and 130 cm with the males being a bit larger than the females. Common wombats in Tasmania and on Flinders Island are normally a little smaller than those found on the mainland. They have short legs with long strong claws excellent for digging. Their tail is just a stump, and the colouring of their coarse fur ranges through the browns, greys and fawns to black.

The common wombat is found in South eastern Australia in the states of New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, and in south eastern South Australia. They live in forested areas, woodlands, Eucalypt, heathland, coastal scrub etc, where the soil is burrowable. This type of land is often hilly and wet and they love to place their burrows under trees above creek beds.

Their tunnels are an amazing engineering feat, being from 2 to 20 meters in length with various connecting and sub tunnel branches. One wombat may have a minor tunnel just for emergency escapes and also a major burrow set-up with sleeping quarters and more than one entrance. Normally only one wombat lives in a warren and he will mark his land by dropping scats in plain view and scratching trees.

The common wombat like all wombats are basically nocturnal, but during cooler times can be seen early morning or late afternoon. They are territorial and will scent, mark and vocalise their home range, and if another wombat comes into its range snorts and screeches hopefully drives off the intruder.

Wombats being herbivorous eat mainly grass, but also eat other plant material such as shrubs, roots, barks and moss. Typically they will spend many hours each night browsing for food in its home range.

Being a marsupial the wombat has a pouch, though unlike kangaroos etc the wombats pouch faces backward so no dirt gets in when it is tunnelling/ Despite having 2 teats in the pouch common wombats only give birth to 1 young at a time. Gestation period is around 20 to 30 days and the young then stays in the pouch for a further 6 months. Wombats reach sexual maturity at 2 years, and it is thought wombats usually live around 5 years in the wild.


Echidnas

Echidnas or spiny ant eaters as they are sometimes known, are familiar to most Australians. Echidnas are monotremes. There are only three species of monotreme in the world -- the platypus and two species of echidna, one of which is restricted to the New Guinea highlands. They have many features which are reptilian in nature such as egg laying, legs that extend outward then downward, and a lower body temperature, about 31-320C, than other mammals.

Echidnas are 30 cm to 45 cm in length and weigh between 2 kg and 5 kg with Tasmanian animals being larger than their Australian mainland counterparts. The body, with the exception of the underside, face and legs, is covered with cream coloured spines. These spines, which reach 50 mm in length, are in fact modified hairs. Insulation is provided by fur between the spines which ranges in colour from honey to a dark reddish-brown and even black. The fur of the Tasmanian subspecies is thicker and longer than that of echidnas in warmer mainland areas and therefore often conceals the spines.

The echidna is common throughout most of temperate Australia and lowland New Guinea. In Tasmania, it is particularly common in dry open country on the east coast. It is also found on open heathlands and in forests and can sometimes be seen slowly wandering along roadsides in its characteristic rolling gait.

The echidna is shy and moves slowly and carefully, but can usually be approached by treading softly. It is solitary for most of the year but at mating time several males may follow a female. Their activity patterns differ with location and temperature -- in the warmer parts of Australia it is completely nocturnal, spending the daytime resting out of the heat. They typically shelter in rotten logs, stumps or burrows, or under bushes. In more temperate areas foraging occurs around dusk, while echidnas in southern Australia are often active during the day, particularly during winter.

If disturbed, echidnas will usually lower the head, and with vigorous digging, sink rapidly into the ground leaving only the spines exposed. On hard surfaces they will curl into a ball -- presenting defensive spines in every direction. They are also capable of wedging tightly into crevices or logs by extending their spines and limbs.

The echidna is adapted for very rapid digging, having short limbs and powerful claws. The claws on the hind feet are elongated and curve backwards; to enable cleaning and grooming between the spines. However, despite this, they are infested with what is said to be the world's largest flea -- Bradiopsylla echidnae, which is about 4 mm long.

Surprisingly, echidnas are good swimmers, paddling about with only the snout and a few spines showing. They have been seen to cross wide beaches to swim and groom themselves in the sea.

Male echidnas, like their relative the platypus, have a spur on each hindfoot. However, unlike the platypus the spur is blunt and the venom gland is not functional.

The breeding season for echidnas is from the end of June to September. Two weeks after mating, a single rubbery-skinned egg is laid directly into a small backward facing pouch which has developed in the female. After 10 days the egg hatches and the young remains in the pouch. During the following period of lactation the female spends most of her time in a burrow but will leave the young behind, covered with soil or wood fibre, to go foraging. As echidnas lack nipples, the mammary glands secrete milk through two patches on the skin from which the young suckle. Juveniles are eventually ejected from the pouch at around 2 - 3 months of age due to the continuing growth of their spines. Suckling gradually decreases up until the juvenile is weaned at about 6 months of age.

The diet of echidnas is largely made up of ants and termites, although, they will eat other invertebrates especially grubs, larvae and worms. The strong forepaws are used to open up the ant or termite nest and the echidna then probes the nest with its sensitive snout. Any insects in the nest are caught on the echidnas rapidly moving 15 cm tongue which is covered with a layer of sticky mucous, hence the name Tachyglossus meaning 'fast tongue'. The jaws are narrow and have no teeth so food is crushed between hard pads which lie in the roof of the mouth and on the back of the tongue. Large grubs are squashed and the contents licked up. Echidnas eat a lot of soil and ant-nest material when feeding, and this makes up the bulk of droppings.

The echidna is common and widespread. They are less affected by the clearing of land as much as many other native animals as they can live anywhere that there is a supply of ants. Despite their covering of spines they do have natural predators such as eagles and Tasmanian devils which even eat the spines. They were a favourite food of Aboriginal people and early white settlers although they are now wholly protected by law.



Emu

The largest bird that inhabits the lush, grassy fields of Australia is the emu. Adults are about 5.7 ft. tall and weigh about 110-120 lbs. It has medium size wings, but it can't fly. The base feathers are white, while the feathers on the top are blackish brown. The feathers act as a "feathery-quilt" because they're so loosely connected. From a distance they look very course.

The weight of the female emu is 90 lbs., while the male weighs 80 lbs. They only have 3 toes, and they are very sharp, making it easy for them to run really fast. Emu's have long, strong necks, very sharp beaks, and bald, bluish heads.

Emu's usually mates during May-August, beginning when they're almost 18 months old. The female lays around 5-20 eggs in a shallow nest made out of mud, leaves, grass, bark, and twigs. The color of the eggs are greenish-black. When the babies are born, they're beige with dark stripes and little dots on their tiny heads. It takes 2 months for the babies to hatch. During those 2 months, the father sits on the nest, drinking little water and usually losing a total of 10 to 20 lbs. When the chicks hatch, the father emu takes care of them for several months.

The emu used to fly at one time, but lost the ability because they had no predators and didn't need to fly anymore. When the Europeans came, they started to hunt them, but by then the emu couldn't fly.

The emu eats mostly fruits, flowers, insects, seeds, and it absolutely adores caterpillars and green vegetation. Emus need to drink water on a regular basis in order to stay alive.

Emu chicks are killed by dingoes, foxes, and feral cats. The adult emu's are killed by humans, for there isn't a large enough animal left in Australia to take it down. There once was, but they've become extinct in Australia.

The emu isn't endangered, but they might be someday. Most of them today are killed by farmers who say that the enormous bird destroy their crops.


Koala Bear

This fuzzy marsupial is very muscular, quite lean, and is about 33 inches long. It has a fuzzy coat of fur, big floppy ears, and almost no tail! It's got a stubby little nose, small yellow, beady eyes, and strong bones to support its heavy body while climbing trees. Now you may wonder; how much do those strong bones have to support? Well, the females weigh between 13.2 and 24.2 lbs., while the male weigh between 17.6 and 30.8 lbs.

The koala has rough paws that act as traction so they don't slip and fall off the trees while hurrying away from predators that lurk beneath the trees. Each paw has 5 digits. The back paw consists of two "fingers" that are joined together to form a "grooming paw". These help it get rid of off twigs or tics that may have gotten tangled in its thick fur. There are 3 other "fingers". Two of them are very sharp and those are used for climbing. The last "finger" which takes the place of a human thumb is stubbed; there are no claw on it. Meanwhile, the front paw has 2 tiny "fingers" that are substituted for 1 large thumb. It also has 3 normal "fingers" that are very sharp. Just like their back paws, these are used for climbing.

The koala has thick fur that is used to help keep it cool and at the same time warm. Their fur also acts like a rain slicker, repelling moisture. The color of their fur changes from gray to brown depending on the season. They have patches of white on their neck, chest, and inside the ears, legs, and arms.

The koala usually mates during September-March. The female koalas start to mate with the male koalas when they're around 3 or 4 years old! They sometimes only produce one offspring per year. It takes about 35 days after the female koala conceives to birth a Joey (a baby koala bear). When the Joey's born, it looks like a pink, hairless, jellybean, with beady little eyes just like its parents. Joey's can't see or hear when they're born. That's probably because they don't even have ears when they're born! The babies are usually only 2 centimeters long and weigh only 1 gram. During the first few months, the Joey stays in its mother's pouch and sucks on something in its mother's nipple called "pap". "Pap" is very mushy, just like baby food. The Joey eats "pap" until it's 1 years old. Then the mother starts to feed it eucalyptus leaves.

Using its brown and gray fur, the koala can camouflage itself so they can hide from predators. Don't you think that the koalas might get hurt sitting on the sharp twigs, well they don't! Their bottoms are padded with so much fur, that they can sit on pointy branches and not get hurt! The koalas thick, fuzzy fur keeps them warm, but not too warm. Their sharp claws dig into the trees so that they don't fall off.

Even with their tiny noses, koalas have an excellent sense of smell. They can detect the poisonous leaves, just by sniffing them!

The koala doesn't have that diverse of a diet. The only thing they eat are eucalyptus leaves. The eucalyptus leaf is quite poisonous to other animals, but the koala's digestive system is immune to it. The only thing is, if they eat more than 3 lbs. of leaves a day, they'll get indigestion.

The koala is killed by foxes, dogs, dingoes, and most of all, humans and forest fires.


Platypus

The platypus with its duck bill and webbed feet, is a unique Australian animal. It and the two species of echidna are the only monotremes or egg-laying mammals to be found on earth. The marsupials and eutherians both give birth to live young. The monotremes have lower body temperatures than other mammals and have legs which extend out, then vertically below them. These features together with their egg-laying are more like that of a lizard than a mammal.

Platypus are readily identified by their streamlined body, webbed feet, broad tail and characteristic muzzle or bill which is soft and pliable. An adult platypus is from 45 cm to 60 cm in length and may weigh up to 2.7 kg, with females generally smaller than males. Its usual colouration is deep brown on the back and sides of the head, body and upper surfaces of the limbs. The underside is a golden colour although silky grey is not uncommon. They have two layers of fur - a dense waterproof outercoat and a grey woolly underfur to provide much needed insulation. The fur on the broad flat tail is coarse and bristly. They have a smooth swimming action together with a low body profile and no visible ears, making them easily recognisable in the water. It could only be mistaken for a water rat, but these have a long thin tail with a white tip.

The webbed fore-paw is used for swimming, and on land, the skin, which extends beyond the long claws, is folded back to enable the animal to walk or burrow. The webbing on the hind foot does not extend beyond the bases of the claws and this foot is used mainly for steering and to tread water. The tail acts as a powerful rudder when swimming and also aids the animal when diving.

The male has a spur on the inner side of each hind limb, which is connected by means of a hollow groove to a poison gland. This spur is used to inflict wounds on natural enemies and other males, and may possibly play some part in mating. The poison is capable of inflicting a very painful injury to humans.

Surprisingly, platypus are capable of many vocalisations including a soft growling sound when disturbed.

The platypus is widespread in eastern Australia, ranging from tropical lowlands to sub-alpine areas. In Tasmania the platypus is common in the lakes of the Central Highlands and in rivers and streams of the south, southwest and northwest coasts. However, closer settlement is reducing the numbers in certain coastal rivers.

Although platypus are strong swimmers they are not fast and prefer slow flowing streams. Platypus live in burrows that they dig on the banks of fresh water rivers, lakes or streams. Burrows are usually 4.5 to 9 m in length, oval shaped and are constructed just above the water line, often obscured by vegetation.

Platypus are solitary animals that only come together to mate, however, several individuals may be found living in close proximity. They are shy and wary, usually venturing out only in the early morning and evening, although there is considerable variability in the time that individuals are active. Platypus forage for food for about 12-13 hours every day and can consume up to half their own body weight a day. They dive for between 20-40 seconds during foraging, resting on the surface for only 10 seconds between dives. They perform about 80 dives per hour.

An interesting behaviour that has been observed in platypus is "wedging", where the animal wedges itself underwater beneath a rock or tree stump. It is possible that the animal is resting, as its metabolic rate while wedging is less than that of resting at the surface.

Grooming of the fur is very important and is carried out in the water or on land. In some areas platypus spend a surprising amount of time out of water, crossing land between tarns or dams and even foraging for worms in waterlogged paddocks.

Breeding occurs during spring but is generally earlier in the north of Australia than in the south. Mating takes place in the water and after 12 to 14 days, between 1 and 3 eggs are laid in a nesting burrow constructed by the female.

This burrow is up to 20 m long and has a nesting chamber at the end which is lined with damp plant material. The eggs are incubated between the belly and the tail of the female and hatch after 10 to 12 days. Like the echidna, the platypus lacks nipples and milk from the mammary glands oozes out through ducts at two areas on the abdomen. It is believed that the hair around these areas acts as teats that allows the young to suck the milk. By six weeks the young are furred, have their eyes open and may leave the burrow for short intervals and even enter the water. When four to five months old the young are weaned.

When foraging on the bottom, platypus swim with their eyes, ears and nostrils closed, using their electro-sensitive bill to locate and probe for food. This finely tuned electro-perception and sense of touch allows platypus to find and capture a range of prey including worms, insects, crustaceans, molluscs and small vertebrates such as tadpoles. Typical prey are the larvae of caddisflies, mayflies, two-winged flies and shrimps. Once caught, prey are carried to the surface in cheek-pouches where they are eaten. Adults have no teeth -- instead small, horny pads are used to hold and crush prey.

The platypus is wholly protected throughout Australia. Although common, it is vulnerable to the continuing degradation of suitable water bodies caused by damming, drainage and pollution. The illegal netting of fish also causes many platypus deaths.


Saltwater Crocodiles

Two types of Crocodiles are found in Australia, the Freshwater Crocodile and the Salt Water Crocodile. The salt water Crocodile is the biggest reptile in the world.

    Salt vs Fresh:
  1. Fresh water crocodiles have a narrower snout
  2. Fresh water crocodiles and are smaller than the "Saltys"
  3. Fresh water crocodiles can only live in fresh or slight salty water, whilst the saltwater crocodile can survive in both types of water
  4. Saltys lay eggs in nests of vegetation whilst freshwater crocs lay their eggs in sand
  5. Fresh water crocs teeth are shaped more like needles for piercing fish
  6. Saltwater Crocs reproduce in the WET season while Freshwater Crocs reproduce in the DRY season
Found along Australia's northern coast and up to 200km inland, from Rockhampton on Queenslands "Capricorn Coast" to Broome in Western Australia.

As the name suggests these crocodiles are mainly found in Estuaries where tidal rivers meet the sea.

This watery habitat is often mangrove lined They can also be found sometimes in the open sea or inland in freshwater swamps and billabongs.

The worlds largest reptile the "Salty" has a broad "stubby" snout with cone shaped teeth. Its average length is 4 meters but males 6 to 7 meters have been reported. Saltwater Crocs have rows of bony scales on their neck and back. Their colouring is mainly greyish brown with brown and yellow sides. Their rear feet are webbed to aid with swimming. It is thought that they live up to 70 to 100 years. Their clear eyelids enable them to see underwater.

The feeding strategy of a salt water crocodiles is to wait close to the water's edge and pounce upon its victim in the blink of an eye. The usual prey of younger crocs is smaller animals such as fishes and crustaceans crabs insects etc. Adults can also attack and eat larger animals by overpowering and then drowning them, the teeth are designed more for holding, eg fish, turtles, birds, turtles, dingoes, wallabies, even domestic cattle and people. After the prey is dead the croc will break the prey up into smaller pieces by violent flicking of the head to snap or break bones or twisting and rolling the body. Larger crocs will also take carrion if hungry.

As already mentioned nesting takes place in the wet season after males fight for the females. The female croc builds a nesting mound of vegetation, mud and soil and lays between 40 and 60 leathery eggs inside the mound. This mound raises the eggs above the water level hopefully saving them from damage. She then guards the nest for 3 months until the young crocs using a special egg tooth on the top of their snout break free from their eggs. Carefully carrying her young in her mouth she takes them to the water. In the wild only about 1% survive to be adult crocodiles.

The temperature at which the egg is kept determines the sex of the baby crocodile. If the egg is kept at 31.6 degrees Celsius it will be male. Hotter or colder it will be a female.

Often you will see a saltwater crocodile gaping its mouth open. This enables the Crocodile to cool down, as a lot of their time is spent thermoregulating, maintaining their body temperature between 30 and 32 degrees Celsius, as Crocs are cold blooded.


Freshwater Crocodile

The Australian freshwater crocodile is a relatively small crocodilian which rarely exceeds 2.5 to 3 m in the wild and takes many years, at least 30 to reach this size. Females general reach a maximum size of 2.0 to 2.1 meters. The shape of the snout is unusually narrow and tapering, lined with numerous sharp teeth. The body colour is light brown with darker bands on the body and tail - these tend to be broken up near the neck. Some individuals possess distinct bands or speckling on the snout. Body scales are relatively large, with wide, closely-knit armoured plates on the back. Rounded, pebbly scales cover the flanks and outsides of the legs.

The shape of the snout, like that of the gharial, suggests a primary adaptation to a fish-based diet, and fish are certainly handled with ease. However, a wide variety of other prey items are often taken - generally invertebrates and small vertebrates, especially when younger. Larger individuals may take terrestrial species. C. johnstoni favours a sit-and-wait hunting strategy, snatching prey up with a lightning-fast sideways movement of the head. It rarely feeds during the dry season because of a lack of prey availability, low temperatures at night and a reduction in available habitat due to drying of pools and rivers.

Males reach sexual maturity around 1.5 m in length, with females being only slightly smaller. Courtship occurs in the early months of the dry season, around May, and nesting generally occurs between July and September. Females dig hole nests in sand embankments, exposed after the wet season water levels fall. Research has found that all females within a particular population usually nest within the same three week period - behaviour described as 'pulse' nesting. They may also nest in groups, with many nests being laid in close proximity, some females even dig up the clutches of other females when nest density becomes very high. Eggs are normally laid at night 6 weeks after mating, at a depth of 12 to 20 cm below the surface - too close to the surface and they risk being overheated from the sun. Incubation temperatures of between 30 and 33 degrees are desirable. Clutch size averages 13 eggs, but can range from 4 to 20. The incubation period is usually between 75 to 85 days, maximum range 65 to 95 days. Studies on temperature effects have shown that eggs incubated at 32°C produce male embryos, whereas those a couple of degrees above and below this produce female embryos - however, greater sexual differentiation seems to occur with fluctuating nest temperatures. Varanus lizards and feral pigs are major predators of eggs during this period, when neither parent guards the nest. Varanids can easily find nests laid within 24 to 48 hours. On average for all nests laid, under one third of the eggs survive to hatching. The female parents return at the end of the incubation period and wait for the neonates to begin calling. They may then carry the newly-hatched juveniles to the water in their mouths, although the nests will still hatch out without the female being present. Adult females stay close to and protect the small crocodiles for a variable period following this, but protection is not as long as the sympatric C. porosus. Disturbance is more likely to result in the female abandoning the nest and her offspring. Cannibalism has been reported, often due to a scarcity of food. Only 1% of these hatchlings will survive to reach maturity, and in some years predation pressures are so high that it is unlikely that any new animals are recruited into the adult population. In some years, early rains at the end of the dry season can destroy almost all the nests through flooding. Juveniles which survive to maturity have been found returning to the same breeding and nesting areas.

Hunting has been less of a problem than with C. porosus, mainly due to the presence of ventral osteoderms in the belly scales of adults. Long-term aboriginal hunting did not significantly affect the population, but advances in tanning processes at the end of the 1950s meant that freshwater crocodile skins could be utilised when C. porosus populations became depleted. This hunting caused a widespread reduction in the population until protection measures were implemented in the 1960s and 1970s. Although a small amount of illegal poaching and killing no doubt persists, the major threat at the moment is the omnipresent one of habitat destruction. Recently, invasive species such as cane toads have led to mortality of adults and presumably juveniles in otherwise healthy populations. The threat of these toads has not yet been ascertained properly, although it is likely that only dwarf populations are under any real long-term threat. Populations have recently recovered to a significant extent. Small-scale farming and ranching programs exist for commercial purposes, and monitoring and management studies which were initiated in the 1970s are still ongoing. Valuable long-term research is being conducted upon the population dynamics of this species, together with other studies looking at biology, physiology and development. Population estimates vary, as the species can be difficult to survey effectively, but it is not unreasonable to assume that there are at least 100,000 individuals in the wild.


Tasmanian Devil

The Tasmanian devil cannot be mistaken for any other marsupial. Its spine-chilling screeches, black colour, and reputed bad-temper, led the early European settlers to call it The Devil. Although only the size of a small dog, it can sound and look incredibly fierce.

The world's largest surviving carnivorous marsupial, the devil has a thick-set, squat build, with a relatively large, broad head and short, thick tail. The fur is mostly or wholly black, but white markings often occur on the rump and chest. Body size also varies greatly, depending on the diet and habitat. Adult males are usually larger than adult females. Large males weigh up to 12 kg, and stand about 30 cm high at the shoulder.

Devils once occurred on mainland Australia, with fossils having been found widely. Today, however the devil is only found in Tasmania. It is believed the devil became extinct on the mainland some 600 years ago - before European settlement of the continent. The dingo, which was brought into Australia by Aboriginal people, is believed to have ousted the devil from the mainland.

Today, devils are particularly common in some north, east and central districts where some farming practices provide much carrion. Tasmanian devils can be seen in many rural and wilderness areas by slowly driving at night along secondary roads. Devils are readily seen at the Narawntapu National Park, Mt. William National Park, Cradle Mt. National Park, and the Arthur River and highland lakes area. Look for them a few hours after sunset.

Devils are widespread in Tasmania from the coast to the mountains. They live in coastal heath, open dry sclerophyll forest, and mixed sclerophyll-rainforest - in fact, almost anywhere they can hide and find shelter by day, and find food at night.

Devils usually mate in March, and the young are born in April. Gestation is 21 days. More young are born than can be accommodated in the mother's backward-opening pouch, which has 4 teats. Although 4 pouch young sometimes survive, the average number is 2 or 3. Each young, firmly attached to a teat, is carried in the pouch for about 4 months. After this time the young start venturing out of the pouch and are then left in a simple den - often a hollow log. Young are weaned at 5 or 6 months of age, and are thought to have left the mother and be living alone in the bush by late December. They probably start breeding at the end of their second year. Longevity is up to 7-8 years.

The devil is mainly a scavenger and feeds on whatever is available. Powerful jaws and teeth enable it to completely devour its prey - bones, fur and all. Wallabies, and various small mammals and birds, are eaten - either as carrion or prey. Reptiles, amphibians, insects and even sea squirts have been found in the stomachs of wild devils. Carcasses of sheep and cattle provide food in farming areas. Devils maintain bush and farm hygiene by cleaning up carcasses. This can help reduce the risk of blowfly strike to sheep by removing food for maggots.

Devils are famous for their rowdy communal feeding at carcasses - the noise and displays being used to establish dominance amongst the pack.

The devil is nocturnal. During the day it usually hides in a den, or dense bush. It roams considerable distances - up to 16 km - along well-defined trails in search of food. It usually ambles slowly with a characteristic gait but can gallop quickly with both hind feet together. Young devils are more agile however and can climb trees. Although not territorial, devils have a home range.

The famous gape or yawn of the devil that looks so threatening, can be misleading. This display is performed more from fear and uncertainty than from aggression. Devils produce a strong odour when under stress, but when calm and relaxed they are not smelly. The devil makes a variety of fierce noises, from harsh coughs and snarls to high pitched screeches. A sharp sneeze is used as a challenge to other devils, and frequently comes before a fight. Many of these spectacular behaviours are bluff and part of a ritual to minimise harmful fighting when feeding communally at a large carcass.

Devils were a nuisance to the early European settlers of Hobart Town, raiding the poultry yards, but were soon driven away to more remote areas of the island. In 1830 the Van Diemen's Land Co. introduced a bounty scheme to remove devils, as well as Tasmanian tigers and wild dogs, from their northwest properties: 2/6 (25 cents) for male devils and 3/6 (35 cents) for females. Devils ate animals caught in snares, and were believed to take lambs and sheep. For over a century they were trapped and poisoned and became very rare. They seemed, like the Tasmanian tiger, to be headed for extinction. Despite this the Tasmanian devil was not protected by law until June 1941. This story has a happy ending, however, because the population then gradually increased until today the Tasmanian devil is abundant and apparently safe. Fittingly, the Tasmanian devil was chosen as the symbol of the Tasmanian National Parks and Wildlife Service.

People sometimes say that devils are in 'plague proportions'. All they are really saying is that there are more than they would prefer to see. Both devil and quoll populations naturally swell dramatically each summer when young disperse into the wild. This is a short-lived phenomenon as 60% will die within the first few months due to competition for food. The increase is a seasonal fluctuation, not a plague. Tasmanian devils are wholly protected.