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More Deviltry

In the wild, Tasmanian Devils are nocturnal, but they don't mind a little rest and relaxation in the sun.

In the wild, Tasmanian Devils are nocturnal hunters and scavengers. However, they don't mind a little rest and relaxation in the sun, especially after an exhausting tussle over some wallaby chops.

My friends and I fell in love with Tasmanian Devils, irascible carnivorous marsupials that live in the wild only on the island of Tasmania, an Australian state south of the mainland of Australia. 

I'm petting the nice Tasmanian Devil. "Nice devil, nice devil....."

I'm petting the nice Tasmanian Devil. "Nice devil, nice devil....." Though they have a reputation for fighting, they aren't aggressive toward humans if handled correctly.

In the wild, Tasmanian Devils usually are only active at night, when they hunt or seek out carrion.  They can be very nasty-tempered and make a huge noisy fuss when they eat.   You can see why I find them so adorable!  They have their own personalities and are inquisitive.  (Their main inquiry probably is “When is feeding time?”)  Their keepers and the scientists who study them become very fond of the little devils.

A devil gets peeved when a young man's hand got too close to the devil's head.  We both had to count our fingers after that close encounter.  The keeper has raised this devil from joeyhood, and he's used to people, but a devil is a devil, after all!

A devil gets peeved when a young man's hand got too close to the devil's head. We both had to count our fingers after that close encounter. The keeper raised this devil from joeyhood, so the devil is used to people, but a devil is a devil, after all!

If you want to see Tasmanian Devils, you’ll need to visit a wildlife park or zoo in Australia.   There, the devils are happy to greet you during the day.  At some parks, you can even pet a devil.  Just be careful that you don’t reach too close to its head.  We saw devils and many other unique-to-Australia animals at East Coast Natureworld near Bicheno and Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park near Taranna, both in Tasmania.

The only other place outside of Australia where devils can be seen is the Copenhagen Zoo, where they were a gift to Denmark, because Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark,  is from Tasmania.

Many Australian zoos and parks, particularly in Tasmania, are breeding the devils in special quarantined areas so they won’t contract Devil Facial Tumor Disease, an infectious cancer that affects many wild devils.  So far, the disease is incurable.  Scientists estimate that half or more of the devil population has disappeared in the past dozen years because of the disease.

Tasmanian Devils often eat roadkill, such as wallabies, but can also become roadkill themselves.  They travel widely in search of food.

Tasmanian Devils often eat roadkill, such as wallabies, but can also become roadkill themselves. They travel widely in search of food.

Tasmanian Devils play an important role in the Tasmanian environment, plus they are so cute.  You can read more about devils in my previous post, I’m a Friend of the Tasmanian Devil.   That post includes a Discovery Channel video and links to more information.  Below are some videos from our visit to a wildlife park to see the devils.

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I’m a Friend of the Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devils are good climbers when they're young.

Young Tasmanian Devils are good climbers. These irascible marsupials can be charming. Isn't he cute!

When my friend Anita told me we could tour Tasmania when we visited her and her husband in Australia, I thought:  “Great, I can see some Tasmanian Devils.” 

I told my daughter (she stayed behind) about the itinerary that included these irascible marsupials, and then I added, “The Tasmanian Devils are dying out.”  Just to say that made both of us tear up.  Thousands of types of animals are threatened with extinction, but the devils could be gone in only a few decades.

This Tasmanian Devil looks menacing, but he's just yawning. Devils can get peevish, though, particularly at meal time when they have to share.  Devils have the strongest jaws per size of any mammal and can completely devour their meals, bones, fur and all. They are stellar members of the clean plate club!

This Tasmanian Devil is showing his "vicious yawn," one of 20 identified devil postures. You get a good looks at his jaws and sharp teeth. Devils have the strongest jaws per size of any mammal and can completely devour their meals, bones, fur and all. They are stellar members of the clean plate club!

I’d read a heart-breaking story last year in the New York Times about a terrible infectious cancer (Devil Facial Tumor Disease) that could wipe out the Tasmanian Devil.  Some scientists think the devil population may have dropped 50 percent or even more in the last dozen years.  The disease is transmitted from devil to devil by biting, which the devils do while eating and mating.  It’s no accident that they’re called devils, although they can also be very endearing. (See Harper’s Magazine link below.  It’s a great article.)

Scientists and wildlife experts are trying to find a cure, but so far they haven’t come close.   Wildlife experts also have set aside disease-free areas for the devils to live and reproduce.  The devil only exists in the wild in Tasmania, an island that’s one of the states of Australia. Since the extinction of the Thylacine (also known as the Tasmanian Tiger) in 1936, the Tasmanian Devil is now the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world.

Study of the devil’s facial tumor is leading to better understanding of the nature of cancer itself.

At the first wildlife park we visited, my first sight of a devil was a sleepy creature in a burrow. 

“Ahhh, so cute!”Tasmanian Devil sticker.

He (or she) and his friends were soon up and chasing each other in a circle and also checking us out.   They gave us the “vicious yawn,” which scientists think means the devil is thinking: “You don’t scare me.”  The devils looked like small, stocky dogs and ran like raccoons.  It wasn’t until the keeper tossed a fleshy bone to three of them, that their cantankerous side appeared.  Their comraderie disappeared, and they grabbed onto the bone and wouldn’t let go.  They made a terrific racket as they ran in circles, all three gripping the meat in their mouths together.  Usually, devils are solitary but will come together when they find something delicious.

See the devils in action below in the YouTube video from the Discovery Channel.

“More Deviltry,” my second post on Tasmanian Devils. Can’t get enough of the Devils!

Harper’s Magazine Story about studying contagious cancer in Tasmanian Devils.

More information about the Tasmanian Devil.

Devil Worshippers Unite.

Sharing isn't on the menu when three Tasmnaina Devils grab onto the same piece of meat.

Sharing isn't on the menu when three Tasmanian Devils grab onto the same piece of meat. You've never heard such a commotion!

Click on these thumbnails to see cards starring Tasmanian Devils on Greeting Card Universe.

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