March 1, 2018 | View PDF
The fascinating Tasmanian devil is a carnivorous, semi-nocturnal creature, whose aggressive nature and wild hissing, growling and screaming earned it the name. Tasmanian devils live in Tasmania, a large island just south of Australia. In fact, Tasmania is the only place where they are found in the wild. Though Tasmanian devils can live anywhere on the island, they prefer coastal scrublands and forests. Tasmanian devils’ life span in the wild is about seven to eight years. The Tasmanian devil is a marsupial, related to koalas and kangaroos. It is the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial, reaching 30 inches in length and weighing up to 26 pounds, although its size will vary widely depending on its specific range and the availability of food. Body of Tasmanian devil is covered with black fur, with white patches on the chest, shoulders and rump. Tasmanian devil has large head and very strong jaw Tasmanian devil has one of the strongest bites in the animal world; 1200 pounds per square inch, which means that it can bite through the metal trap. While devils are usually solitary, their excellent noses will often lead several of them to the same carcass at once, and communal feeding is rather common. Tasmanian devils can take prey up to the size of a small kangaroo, but in practice they are opportunistic and eat carrion more often than they hunt live prey. As scavengers, devils also help their habitat by eating most anything lying around, no matter how old or rotten. When Tasmanian devils do prey, they hunt mainly small animals, including birds, lizards, insects and other marsupials, such as wallabies. On average, devils eat about 15% of their body weight each day, although they can eat up to 40% of their body weight in 30 minutes if the opportunity arises. Tasmanian devils store extra fat in their tails. Curious and energetic, Tasmanian devils travel long distances each night in their pursuit of food, sometimes covering as much as 10 miles. During the day, Tasmanian devils find shelter under stones, in caves, bushes, old wombat burrows, or hollow logs. Tasmanian devils are not very fast runners (they can reach only15 miles per hour, but they can run extended period of time (one hour without resting). Also, they are excellent climbers and swimmers. Tasmanian devils’ breeding season lasts from March to May. Tasmanian devil mothers have a gestation period of three weeks.
Like all marsupials, Tasmanian devil mothers give birth to very tiny young (about the size of a raisin). Once born, the babies called imps crawl up the mother’s fur and into her pouch.
She will have up to 50 young at once, but only a maximum of 4 survive in the pouch. Babies stay in their pouch for four months.
When they emerge from the pouch, the imps often ride on their mother’s back, like young koalas, or stay in the den while she hunts.
After about six months old, the young are weaned, becoming independent at around nine months. Threats to Tasmanian devils include attacks by domestic dogs and foxes, being hit by cars, loss of habitat, and disease. In the 1990s, the total Tasmanian devil population was estimated at 130,000 to 150,000. However, the population has been in continual rapid decline since then. Tragically, since the mid-1990s, a catastrophic disease has killed thousands of Tasmanian devils. Called devil facial tumor disease (DFTD), this fatal condition is a rare contagious cancer that causes lumps to form around the animal’s mouth and head, making it hard for it to eat. Scientists are working hard to find a way to stop the spread of DFTD before it wipes the species out. According to an assessment made in 2008, when the Tasmanian devil was put on the red list of endangered species, there are about 10,000 to 25,000 mature Tasmanian devils left in the wild. The devil is an iconic animal within Australia, particularly Tasmania; it is the symbol of the Tasmanian National Parks and Wildlife Service, and the former Tasmanian Australian rules football team which played in the Victorian Football League was known as the Devils. The Tasmanian devil is probably best known internationally as the inspiration for cartoon character the Tasmanian Devil, or “Taz“. He featured in the Warner Bros. “Looney Tunes” and “Merrie Melodies” series of cartoons. Though the character appeared in only five shorts before Warner Bros. Cartoons closed down in 1964, marketing and television appearances later propelled the character to new popularity in the 1990s.