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All Creatures,

Episode 59: Crikey, Its a Devil, from Tasmania

October 23, 2018

The Tasmanian Devil sounds ferocious, but is only the size of a small dog. Still, you wouldn’t want to tangle with one. They have a bite force of 1200 psi, greater than a lion and many other large carnivores. However, due to an incredibly rare cancer, these animals are facing extinction.

Tasmanian Devil Description

The world’s largest carnivorous marsupial, the Tasmanian Devil was once native to mainland Australia, but went extinct around 3000 years ago due to dingos. However, the remaining Tasmania Devils were isolated on the island of Tasmania, which happened at the end of the last Ice Age about 12,000 years ago when sea levels rose.

While the largest carnivorous marsupial, they still are only about 2 feet long (600 cm) and weigh up to 30 lb (14 kg). Males are about 15% larger than females. These animals’ range over most of Tasmania.

Tasmanian Devil Facts

The Tasmanian Devil is facing a conservation crisis due to a transmittable cancer, called Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD). When breeding, or at times at feeding sites, these animals will bite each other, thus spreading this incredibly rare cancer. The tumors grow around the face and mouth, and they will die within 6 to 12 months. The Tasmanian Devil has suffered an 80% decrease in their population in the past decade.

Other facts include:

  • Live 5 years in the wild, 8 years under human care
  • Solitary, nocturnal or diurnal animals
  • Specialize in eating carrion, sometimes will hunt mainly wombats
  • Devils will often gather at a feasting site, and they eat the entire carcass including bones, viscera and the hide
  • Non-retractable claws that allows them to climb trees
  • When angry, ears turn red
  • Make loud crazy calls, thus earning them the name “devils”
  • Incredible sense of smell, up to 1 km (.6 miles)
  • Females have 4 teats and can give birth to up to 50 young, about the size of a grain of rice, and it is a race for the first 4 to latch on to survive
  • As marsupials have a pouch for their young, that faces rearward
  • Stores fat in their tails

Tasmanian Devil Conservation

Tasmanian Devils are now classified as endangered due to the DFTD. Efforts are underway to save small disease-free populations. There are estimates of less than 15,000 devils left.

Conservation Tips

  • Green camping!
    • Do not bring plastic! Use reusable materials
    • Use biodegradable soap, and non-toxic bug spray and sunscreen
    • Use solar powered lanterns and batteries
    • Bring a filled water cooler and reusable water bottles. No plastic!
    • Leave no trace. If no bathrooms nearby, you can dig a hole 6 inches deep, but put toilet paper in a bag and toss in a trashcan

Organizations to Support

San Diego Zoo Tasmanian Devil

Save the Tasmanian Devil Program

 

 

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