Working with wildlife isn’t just about wombats! Although I’m licensed to receive all wildlife (except snakes) I prefer not to work with reptiles, cockatoos or galahs. I have worked with those animals in the past – I just prefer not to! Wombats, tawny frogmouths, echidnas, possums, swans and rosellas remain my favorites.
Then one afternoon I received a call about an echidna that had been taken to a vet by a member of the public. The member of the public had found the echidna and they were able to pick it up and take it to the vet.
The fact that a member of the public could easily handle an echidna is enough information to let me know that something must have been wrong with the poor animal! Not many people can just pick up an echidna! The vet discovered why the echidna was weak…. they located a tick! The vet removed the tick and they contacted ACT Wildlife. The echidna was transported to me by our wonderful transport volunteers (there’s another way you can volunteer with us if you are interested – transport wildlife to vets and carers! Jump on our web page – ACT wildlife.net if you are interested!) I received the echidna into care and gave him a check over. He seemed remarkably well and active once the tick had been removed.
So what is an echidna? It’s ok if you don’t know – even many Australians aren’t sure and have rarely seen one! Echidnas are one of the most icon Australian animals and are just delightful! They feature on our five cent coin!
An echidna is one of the only two monotremes in the world. The other monotreme is the platypus. A monotreme is a mammal – mammals give birth to live young and suckle them – but what makes the monotreme so unique is that they lay a soft shelled egg! Amazing, right! The echidna has receptors on it’s nose so they can find and eat ants, termites and worms and have an incredibly long tongue with tiny spines on it. They have strong limbs which is why the can dig into the ground remarkably fast!
Echidnas just wandering around the suburbs. As our suburbs extend into bush lands – more animals are being forced to live and interact with us. Echidnas are often found in gardens and people panic and try to move them. To protect themselves echidnas burrow into the dirt, roll into a ball and up come the spines! Many people then reach for a shovel to dig them up. Echidnas splay their outward facing feet beyond their body width and any attempt to ‘dig them out’ can result in toes being damaged by the shovel. So, if you see an echidna in your garden, please leave it alone. Just take your domestic pets inside and the echidna will eventually move on.
Why did the echidna cross the road…?
Drivers occasionally spot echidnas trying to cross roads. Drivers then stop and try to chase them back to the side of the road that the animal was coming from…..why? Then the poor echidna just has to try and re-cross the busy road again…he’s obviously heading somewhere! If I kept taking you back to your house when you were trying to get to the shops how would you feel? So if you see an echidna crossing the road, stop, carefully dodge the traffic ( ! ) and chase him to the side he wants to reach. They simply cross the road just to get to the other side..! Besides, a male echidna might be on the trail of a female so that’s where he wants to go!
It’s called a what now?
A baby echidna is called a puggle – how adorable! The baby doesn’t have spines when it hatches! Another interesting fact about echidnas is that the female leaves the young in the burrow for days at a time because she only needs to feed her baby every few days. So please never try to relocate an echidna. If you remove it and ‘drive it out to the bush’ you could be removing a mother from its young. The burrow will not be found and the puggle will starve. Please always let echidnas just be.
So after 24 hours in care and observing our echidna to be strong, well and active he was returned to where he was found. Our wildlife license states that all animals in care must be returned within 50 meters from where they were found. Although found near a road, I still returned him within the 50 meters from that site. Off he went happily.
Echidna fun facts that I’ve learnt over time…
Echidnas don’t throw their spines.
The male echidna has a four headed ‘male appendage’ – the good news is – not all ‘heads’ fire at the same time!
Females lay one soft shelled egg at a time.
They do not burrow like a wombat but rather go to ground when scared – they will not damage your garden.
They can climb!
Instagram page – wombats_and_wildlife_heljan09.