Echnidas are found throughout all Australia. Its short, round, compact body, is covered in very sharp spines. The legs are short but very strong, the front feet are designed to be used like spades and the back feet are used for digging and grooming.
Considering their size, they are remarkably strong.
Believe it or not, the spines you see on an echidna are actually long, tough, hollow hair follicles.
These spines are an echidna’s main line of defence when predators strike. When under threat, they will roll up into a ball of radiating spines to protect themselves or dig themselves to safety.
As well as being covered in spines, echidnas are also covered in shorter fur to keep them warm.
Termites, ants, worms and grubs. Echidnas are actually toothless mammals, but they more than make up for it with their long, sticky tongues. When we say long, we mean it. We’re talking 15 centimetres.
Their tongues work very quickly, enabling them to slurp up ants, worms and insect larvae. In fact, the echidna’s scientific name, Tachyglossus actually means ‘fast tongue’ – quite fitting!
Most common reasons for rescues
- Most rescues involve being hit by cars.
- Other calls are about uninjured echidnas that have moved into a garden. If the animal is left alone and monitored, it will most likely move on.
- Bushfires and floods also have a major impact on these animals.
IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER WHEN RESCUING:
- The snout of an echidna is a very sensitive organ that can be easily damaged.
- NEVER USE A WIRE CONTAINER TO HOLD ECHIDNAS.
- Echidnas are great escape artists. When they know you are present they remain very stll.
- However, once there is persistent quiet and they think you have gone, they become very active in an attempt to escape. Any place where they can find a point of leverage, they will use their claws to break open a container.
- Never leave an echnida loose in your car, house or garden
They form mating ‘trains’ during breeding season
From mid-May to early September, male echidnas actively seek out females to mate.
They form a line known as an ‘echidna train’, with the female leading the ‘train’, followed by up to ten males. A smaller, younger male is often at the rear of the line.
The male suitors follow the female for long distances until the female is ready to mate.
She then lies relaxed and flat on her stomach and the males that formed the ‘train’ dig a circular trench around her. Eventually the largest male pushes the competing rivals out of this ‘mating rut’.
He then digs more dirt out from the spot where the female’s tail is resting, lies on his side and places his tail under hers, and they mate.