In bed with the Devil

We’re back in business!  For some strange reason the Internet is a bit less flaky this evening, so hopefully – at last – I can post my piece on wild Tasmanian Devils …

Len, who with his wife Pat owns the Mountain Valley reserve, is passionate about wildlife in general and Tasmanian Devils in particular. Naturalists flock to his isolated property in north central Tasmania for the chance to see Devils in the wild.  He’s preserved the land for future generations of animals and their admirers under the Land for Wildlife scheme.  After dinner Len takes us to the river at the boundary of his property, where we are delighted to see two platypus.  We also find plenty of wombat poo, but the wombats themselves remain elusive.  However, this is just a sideshow, before the Devils take centre stage.

The main event begins at dusk. We are back in our cabins when Len arrives with a bucket full of chopped up wallaby, roadkill that is about to be recycled.  He spreads the meat about outside our cabin window.  A light in the porch means that lumps of flesh are illuminated and clearly visible from the cabin.  We settle down and wait for the action to begin.  And wait … and wait.

At midnight we call it a day. The Tasmanian Devil isn’t going to show tonight and we go to bed disappointed.  However we leave the outside light on and a floor-to-ceiling window means I can see the feeding area while lying in bed.  I’m soon asleep, but inexplicably I awake at 1.15am.  Rubbing the sleep from my eyes I peer outside, and to my amazement I see a Devil tucking into some chopped up roadkill.

I nudge Mrs P, who is snoring softly in my ear’ole. “Devil” I whisper urgently, “Devil!”

She grunts, but otherwise doesn’t respond.

“No, I’m not joking, there’s a Devil outside,” I say again, nudging her harder this time.

It sinks in. Now she’s awake, creeping from the bed, groping silently in the dark for her camera.

We watch, captivated, for about 15 minutes as the Devil systematically works his way through 20 pieces of chopped up wallaby. Devils can eat 40% of their own bodyweight in a single night, so this is no more than a snack for him.  The window is closed of course (it’s bloody cold outside, and for that matter we’re bloody cold inside, halfway up a mountain in an unheated log cabin clad only in our nightwear!) but we can clearly hear him crunching as he ravenously gobbles both flesh and bones.  The light is not good for taking photos and flash is out of the question, so Mrs P does the best she can:

tasmania-mountain-valley-tasmanian-devil-2016-3

The next evening, the same thing happens. We go to bed at midnight and I’m woken shortly after 1:00am, only this time there are two Devils rather than just one.  They bicker and snarl at one another, fighting over the spoils.

On the final evening of our stay at Mountain Valley three Devils turn up, thankfully a little earlier this time. We only ever see two at any one time, but we know there are three individuals as their size and white markings vary.  Again we relish watching the animals interact as they squabble, hurling abuse and grappling with one another over prime feeding rights.  They are feisty little things, and it’s great to see them going about their business blissfully unaware that every snap and snarl is being scrutinised.

Between 85% and 90% of Devils have died over the past 20 years, victims of Devil Facial Tumour Disease, so it’s a real privilege to see wild, disease-free animals here at Mountain Valley:

tasmania-mountain-valley-tasmanian-devil-2016-66

Hats off to Len and Pat for making this possible, and for their absolute commitment to preserving wild places and the critters that live there. What a memory to take home with us:

tasmania-mountain-valley-tasmanian-devil-2016-67

[23 November]

Author: Platypus Man

"Platypus" is a red herring: I'm English, although my blogging career began in my record of a 2016 road trip to Tasmania. Other blogs followed covering road trips in Newfoundland (2017), the Yellowstone area of the USA (2018) and New Zealand (2019). My current project is "Now I'm 64" , a weekly blog covering UK travel and wildlife, along with bits of history, social commentary and moans about the injustice of aging. I can guarantee a few laughs, and also the occasional rant. Some of it's even quite well written!

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