The weird thing about Tasmanian Devils is that, close-up, they look like pussycats. Scratch that – they look like overgrown mice. It’s those big floppy ears.
But if you were allowed to adopt and keep a Tasmanian Devil as a pet, you would regret it because, sooner or later, the little darling would go for you. Tassie Devils aren’t called Devils for nothing.
That said, the real Devils may be us people breeding like crazy, invading their territory. Already, Tasmanian Devils have enough afflictions of their own, not least of which is a cancer epidemic. Find out more about one of the most fearsome and unusual members of the beleaguered animal kingdom.
1.The Tasmanian Devil is a marsupial. That means the females have pouches for carrying their young. No baby buggy required. The pouch has four teats, so she can feed four little Devils simultaneously, which must hurt.
2.Tasmanian Devil babies are called ‘joeys’ just like baby kangaroos, or ‘imps’.
3.Tasmanian Devils reach maturity at the tender age of two. They usually live for about five years but can survive until the grand old age of eight if the going is good.
4.Tassie Devils aren’t fussy eaters. They will eat bugs, frogs, lizards and more. When a Devil stumbles on a dead animal, such as a wallaby, the Devil will devour every morsel – bones, fur and all. Devils are also fond of fatty wombat meat.
5.Despite their voracious tendencies, Devils do not eat people. They sensibly prefer flight to fight. That said, their jaws exert bone-crushing force. So if you are stupid enough to corner or pet one, it may hurt you horribly. Most of the scrapping done by Devils is internecine (ie, amongst Devils), over food. Food fights give many a Tasmanian Devil bald patches – a battle-scarred bruiser look worthy of your neighbourhood’s meanest tomcat.
6.Droves of Tasmanian Devils are dying from a horrible illness called Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), which looks as terrible as it sounds. Researchers are trying to find a cure. The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program is working to save the species from extinction.
7.Aptly, the Devil is active after dark. During the day, it hides in a den or bush.
8.The Devil has a wanderlust and is inclined to roam for up to 16 km along clear-cut trails for food. It usually lollops along but can gallop. Young Devils can climb trees, making it hard for less agile cannibalistically inclined senior Devils to get them.
9.Devils are surprisingly sensitive. Under stress, like skunks, they release a horrible smell. When Devils are angry or distressed, their pink ears go red.
10. A Tasmanian Devil uses a sharp sneeze to challenge other Devils, especially before a fight. Habitually, Tassie Devils make a racket, in an apparent bid to show who is boss. Remind you of anyone in your social circles? You can hear a nerve-jarring Tassie Devil scream here www.parks.tas.gov.au.
See a Devil!
While Devils can be found in Tasmania, Australia's southernmost, island state, they also live on the mainland. Trying to find them in the wild isn't recommended, but captive Devils can be seen in most Australians zoos and wildlife parks. Taronga Zoo in Sydney conducts a breeding and conservation program, as does the cage less Dubbo Western Plains Zoo. Tasmania, they can be spied at the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park.