Shadow Shot Sunday: Devil in the Shadows

© irene waters 2014

© irene waters 2014

 

The Tasmanian Devil in the shadows is almost a shadow in our memories. Once common on mainland Australia for probably the last 3,000 years the only place in the world they live in the wild is in Tasmania. The size of a small dog, the devil is the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world now that the Tasmanian Tiger (the Thylacine) is extinct. They belong to the family Dasyuridae which are a marsupial family found in Australia and New Guinea and includes marsupial mice and the vicious quoll.

© irene waters 2014

© irene waters 2014

The Devil is itself vicious and is extremely malodorous with a high pitch loud screech and a keen sense of smell. Unlike other marsupials they can control their temperature allowing them to be active during the day although they are nocturnal by nature. They can run extremely fast, climb trees and swim rivers and travel up to 16 kms to catch their prey. They have a distinctive white band across their chest and this is unique to each Devil and acts as fingerprints do for us. It’s ferocity when eating is second to none as it devours its prey bones and all. The design of the Devil’s head and neck allow it to generate massive force in its jaws. In fact it has the strongest bite per unit of body mass of all the existing land mammals in the world. It feeds on prey, carrion and scavenging from humans. A male Tasmanian Devil in one eating session can consume a quarter of its own body weight.

© irene waters 2014

© irene waters 2014

Females spend most of their life producing and rearing young. In their average four breeding seasons the female will give birth to around 20 – 30 live young but as the female only has four teats it really becomes survival of the fittest as the young fight for position. Few of the young survive. They are in the backward facing pouch for approximately four months where they grow rapidly. Once they have been ejected from the pouch the mother continues to care for the young until around 9 months of age.

In the early days of settlement the farmers believed the Devil was responsible for many livestock deaths and they were hunted to almost extinction. By 1941 they were a protected species and numbers again started to increase. They are again on the decline as in the 1990’s a disease – a facial tumour – has decimated the population which were already struggling due to a declining habitat and the number which have ended up as road kill as they eat other road kill.

There are virtually none to be seen outside Australia, apart from the Looney Tunes character, due to export restrictions and failure of the Devils that were already residing overseas to breed.  Australia zoo has had a very successful breeding programme with 5 joeys produced in 2011.

© irene waters 2014

© irene waters 2014

This is in response to Shadow Shot Sunday

About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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28 Responses to Shadow Shot Sunday: Devil in the Shadows

  1. noelleg44 says:

    I had assumed they were vicious from their names but they don;t deserve to be pressured to extinction. I wonder why they don’t breed in captivity away from Australia/Tasmania? They are unique! Do they attack people?

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    • I think they got their name from the European settlers who heard their horrendous cries, and smelt them and probably getting a fright from the black and whiteanimal with red ears, pink mouth and huge teeth and then embelllished their encounter to that of an encounter with the devil. To my knowledge they don’t attack humans although they will protect themselves and would be capable of giving a nasty bite. (I think). On the whole, I think they are quite timid and like most timid animals would prefer to escape. Why they don’t breed overseas I don’t know.

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  2. Amazing characters. Their snarling sound can be intimidating, accompanied by the rather unglamorous view of their open mouth. But they are unique and special and precious. Gorgeous first photo.

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  3. Colleen says:

    Spooky. I heard they were dying of some kind of face cancer.

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    • Yes they suffer from facial cancers which from the appearance of the lesions to death is approximately 5 months. They die due to starvation as they find it increasingly difficult to eat. The cancer is contagious (one of only three cancers which are transmissable) but there is no evidence that it spreads between species. Treatment is difficult and to date no way has been found to treat the tumours and keep the animals in the wild. But you never know what is around the corner.

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  4. Kylie D says:

    Fascinating creatures. I enjoyed seeing these shots and learning a little more about them.

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  5. So sad. I’m glad you got pictures of them (and thanks for sharing info. about this species–very interesting).

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  6. Paula Scott Molokai Girl Studio says:

    Wow. Staggering facts for the Taz. I didn’t know all of these facts.So very sad. I hope they make a comeback again and not fall to the same fate as the tiger. Thank you for such an informative post!

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  7. What an interesting and informative post. I had no idea! Not too warm and fuzzy…

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    • At Australia zoo they let people by appointment have hands on contact with the help of the keeper. I think the smell would be enough to keep the cuddling at arms length. They have whiskers placed all over their heads which apparently aids when communally eating. If the whiskers aren’t touching you are safe from being chomped. You are probably right – not too warm and fuzzy.

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  8. Charli Mills says:

    Fascinating! I grew up with the Looney Tunes character so my knowledge is limited and skewed. I thought they might look more like wolverines, but they are different. Sad that they are battling cancer. Any scientists proposing why?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It would appear that the cancers are caused by an accumulaton of exposure to UV rays – an effect of climate change. However as the animals now being affected are younger (initially only older animals were affected) there is some question as to the veracity of this. The cancer however is contagious – the cancer itself is a parasite and spreads between devils in the population. (One of only three contagious cancers known.) Treatment is difficult because they can’t successfully treat wild animals for cancer and they want to keep a wild population. The work goes on.

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  9. TanGental says:

    Thanks Irene. A fascinating read. I saw them at the zoo in Sydney fifteen years or so ago and thought then how sad it was they had such a harsh name. When we came home from our visit we had a toy devil alongside the inevitable koala and my fav the echidna. Much loved to pieces quite literally.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d say you saw them before me. Those pictured were the first I had seen and they looked sleek and well fed. I know what you mean about loved to pieces literally. My brothers koala was like that first no hair and then the seams started going. I don’t know what eventually happened to them (mine you could tell was unloved as he was as hairy as the day received.)

      Liked by 1 person

  10. TanGental says:

    I felt annoyed with my own stupidity really in not looking out for them. The Vet was and remains the one most angered by it. Thank you for e lovely comments.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. diankelly65 says:

    I hope you were not too close for the photos since they are so dangerous! Great shots!

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  12. An interesting post and I love your photos. I always think of the loony tunes character when in fact the real animals are nothing like it. 😀

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  13. la_lasciata says:

    A totally excellent post, Irene ! – but I did see a short doco. a coupla months back showing how they’ve been releasing Devils into huge protected areas in NSW … Here’s hoping I didn’t get that wrong. 😐

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  14. How nice to see them. I did see a program about how they introcuces some Devils to Tasmania. I think it was 6 of them and the change they made to wildlife during the time they followed them. It seemd like they turned the widllife back to order. 🙂 It was an interesting program.

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    • That would have been interesting. I saw what sound a similar documentary on the reintroduction of some animal, I think it was a bear but it may have been a big cat, and it totally put the area back in order. It just shows how important every creature is to the order of things and how we shouldn’t interfere with nature.

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