The (Tasmanian) Devil You Know

A feature named ‘The Hunter’s High Road.’ Check back to see an animal that represents the apex of predatory evolution. Carnivores come in a range of shapes and sizes, using a variety of tricks to catch their prey. Some are powerful, some are beautiful. All are deadly.

Predators don’t have to be big and intimidating to be top hunters, and that is the case with the Tasmanian Devil. Native only to Tasmania, the carnivorous marsupial is known for its powerful bite, distinctive screech and ferocity when it comes to feeding. The size of a small dog, Tasmanian Devils have large, thick heads with males being bigger than females. Males have an average body length of 10.2 inches while females are 9.6 inches.

tasdevil_largeTheir diet consists of other marsupials like wombats, potoroos, bettongs and small kangaroo. They will also eat birds, fish and adapt to vegetables and products humans leave behind. Devils will scavenge carcasses and although they are solitary hunters they are known to gather around a single body and share. Devils have also been recorded digging for corpses, with one case digging up a dead horse that had died from illness.

Devils have one of the most powerful bite forces in the animal world, with their large head and muscular neck allowing them to tear off pieces of flesh. Their eating habits are voracious and will gorge themselves in one sitting.

The species aren’t monogamous and their reproduction process is highly competitive. Males battle for rights to the female and will guard their partner for days, mating several times. Females are programmed to mate with as many males as possible and will try to escape as soon as they can. The young grow rapidly and are ejected from the pouch after 100 days. Pups become independent after nine months and go off to hunt on their own.Tassie Devil tug of war at Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park

Devils are considered endangered for a number of reasons, ranging from motor accidents to selective culling programs. With the extinction of the Tasmanian Tiger in 1936, devils became protected by law and the population recovered slowly. The biggest threat to the population is devil facial tumour disease, which has contributed to an 80% decline.

The disease is an example of a transmissible cancer which is contagious. Devils suffer from it because they have low levels of genetic diversity and a mutation that is unique among carnivorous mammals. As there is no cure, scientists have taken sick animals out of the wild and quarantining healthy devils.

Save The Tasmanian Devil is a program that is dedicated to preserving the species and focuses on lowering the risk of the facial tumour disease. You can help by donating to help research and volunteer so the animals are given a better chance of survival.

Tasmanian Devils are among the world’s most unique hunters and prove that size isn’t everything.

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