WHERE TO SEE THEM:
The Devils were once found on the
mainland of Australia, as indicated through fossil remains, having
become extinct on the mainland several thousand years ago. Today,
wild Devils are found only in Tasmania.
Devils can be seen at Narawntapu National Park, Mount William
National Park, Cradle Mountain National Park, the Arthur River, and
the Freycinet Peninsula. No doubt they are also in many of the less
accessible areas of Tasmania. They can also be seen in many rural
and wilderness areas, by driving slowly at night, especially along
secondary roads, especially a few hours after sunset. They have also
been seen quietly sunbaking.
Some of Tasmania wildlife parks and sanctuaries, will also have injured
Devils on show, as well as places like the Torowunna Wildlife Park, who are
involved in a breeding program.
HABITAT AND BEHAVIOUR:
Devils can exist in most parts of
Tasmania, from coastal heath, dry sclerophyll forest and mixed
sclerophyll rainforest, from the coast through to the mountain
regions. They will live where they can shelter, hide and find food.
Although they are not territorial, Devils do have a home range. The
Devils are nocturnal creatures, and can roam considerable distances
when searching for food, they have been tracked travelling between
10 to 20 km in a night within their home range. Devils have been
clocked running on a flat road at nearly 25 km/h for up to 1 km,
whilst Devils in general can run at 10 km per hour for many kms.
They have a characteristic gait as they slowly ambles along, but
can move quickly, with young devils having the agility to climb
trees. Devils can also swim, although they will avoid swimming far
with young ones in the pouch.
The Devils make a variety of fierce sounds, from snarls and harsh
coughs, to the high pitched screeches. The famous yawn of the
Devils, that people mistaken as threatening, is performed more from
fear and has less to do with aggression. They do have a sharp sneeze
when challenging other Devils, but these are more bluff and part of
their behaviour to minimise harm when feeding communally at a
Mainly scavengers, Devils are famous for their rowdy communal
feeding habits at carcasses. This noisy behaviour is to establish
dominance amongst the pack. The Devils powerful jaws and teeth are
able to to devour an entire carcass, including the bones and fur.
Devils have also been know to eat small prey, including mammals,
bird, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. They have devoured
carcasses of sheep and cattle in farming areas. By consuming dead
carcasses, assists in reducing the risk of blowfly strike and flies
in general that live off dead carrion.
In wilderness areas where there is not much carrion, devils hunt
a lot. They will eat birds, fish, wallabies, echidnas, platypus,
wombats, even invertebrates such as moths, tadpoles, frogs and
reptiles. They will kill any animal that is trapped, injured or
Once a nuisance to the early settlers, where they were said to
raid the poultry yards, there was once a bounty. Devils were charged
with eating animals caught in snares and it was believed that they
took lambs and sheep. For over a century they were trapped and
snared, and it looked like they were heading for extinction. It
wasnt until 1941 when they became protected by law, that they were
safe and have started to gradually increase in numbers, with the
Tasmanian Devil also being chosen as the symbol of the Tasmanian
National Parks and Wildlife Service.
In the past we would assume that thylacines
were predators of the Devils. During the day, small Devils run the
risk from large birds of prey such as eagles, whist at night they
run risks from large owls like the masked owl and large quolls like
the spotted tail quoll. Large Devils will also eat small Devils if
they are hungry enough, this may explain why young Devils can climb
so well, to escape large Devils.
Devils mate during March, with the young being
born in April. Gestation is 21 days, and often there are more young
born than can be accommodated in the mothers pouch, which has only
4 teats. Attached to a teat, the young ones are carried in the pouch
for about four to four and a half months, this is around July. The
young ones start venturing out of the pouch and are left in the den.
They are weaned at 5 to 6 months of age and gradually leave the den
around October-December period. They start breeding at the end of
their second year.