We are indeed fortunate to live in an area that we are still able to see our native animals in their natural habitat.
Although we have been aware for some time that there are Echidnas close by until recently we hadn’t actually seen one. This changed the other morning when walking along the driveway with our dogs Gemma and Lulu we saw one going about his business.
Echidnas are ground dwelling mammals that are active both day and night and they shelter in logs, crevices, burrows or piles of leaf litter. They are toothless and feed on ants, termites and other invertebrates especially beetle larvae.
The echidna has a long snout which is very sensitive to touch and it can feel vibrations. It also has a very good sense of smell. When they smell food like ants or termites they use their powerful claws to dig through soil or logs and then lick up the insects with their long sticky tongue.
Their protection from predators is the sharp spines that cover the top of their head, back and tail. When threatened they coil up in a ball to protect their tummy. They vary in colour from brown to black and can be found all across Australia.
Echidnas are very unusual mammals because they lay eggs and are called monotremes. The female curls up, lays a single egg and keeps it warm in a pouch on her tummy. About 10 days later a tiny baby hatches from the egg.
The juvenile is called a puggle. Echidnas don’t have nipples so the puggle prods a small patch of skin inside the pouch which causes thick milk to ooze out.
When the puggle starts to get spines it is usually too big for the pouch so it is left in the burrow while the mother forages for food – they are weaned about 8 months old.