While driving from Flowerdale to Yea and back home again recently, I counted 7 Echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus) strolling along the roadside. A neighbour commented he had noticed quite a few of these normally solitary animals around as well.
The most likely reason behind these frequent sightings is that as the Echidna breeding season runs from June to September and the puggles (baby echidnas) are weaned off after 6 months. This means there are a lot of teenage echidnas ‘out on the streets’ at this time of year.
These very primitive mammals, which are only found in Australia and Papua New Guinea, are in the same family as the Platypus, that is; the Monotremes, these are the only egg laying mammals in the world. They are also a marsupial and the female lays one egg in its pouch, which hatches after 10 days producing a baby blind and hairless echidna (puggle). The puggle drinks milk from a gland in the mother’s pouch and after about 4 weeks, some of the hairs on its body start to develop into spines (ouch!). Not long after this, the mother turfs the baby out of the pouch .From then on until it is weaned at about 6 months, the baby has to follow mum around and drink from outside the pouch, which I am sure the mother Echidna is pleased about, now the puggle is fully covered in spines.
As most people who have stumbled upon one of these fascinating creatures knows, they will rapidly burrow into the ground or roll themselves into a ball to protect themselves from predators.
If at any stage you have the need to handle a sick or injured Echidna, make sure you are wearing thick leather gloves, or have a thick bag or blanket in which to wrap it, as their spines are very sharp and if accidentally dropped, Echidnas’ long sensitive snouts can easily be broken.
Echidna Story and photo from Steve Junghenn
Fancy a Rakali with your skinny short white decaf with no sugar? Whatever your cuppa tea, Michael and Sue at the Hazeldene Store have it covered. Then wander down to the King Parrot Creek for a quiet start to the day. You might even spot at Native water rat or Rakali as I did yesterday at 10. 15 a.m. swimming across the Creeek and climbing into a tussock on the bank.