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Tasmanian Devil

The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) is the largest surviving marsupial predator, occurring only on the island of Tasmania in dense thickets and forests. The Tasmanian devil is one of about 45 species of marsupial predators that make up the family Dasyuridae.

The Tasmanian devil once occurred widely in Australia and Tasmania. However, the Tasmanian devil became extirpated from Australia following the prehistoric introduction of the dingo (Canis dingo; this is a placental, wild dog) by aboriginal people, and the species is now confined to the island of Tasmania.

Male Tasmanian devils can attain a body length of 32 in (80 cm) and a tail of 12 in (30 cm), and can weigh more than 20 lb (9 kg). Their pelage is colored dark brown or black, with several white spots on the rump and sides and a pinkish snout. The body is stout and badger-like, and the jaws and teeth are strong.

As is the case with all marsupials, young Tasmanian devils are born in an early stage of embryonic development. The tiny babies crawl slowly to a belly pouch (or marsupium) on their mother, where they suckle until they are almost fully grown and ready for an independent life.

Tasmanian devils sleep in a den during the day, located in a hollow log, cave, or another cavity. This species is a fierce, nocturnal predator of smaller animals, and a scavenger of dead bodies, filling a niche similar to those of such placental carnivores as foxes, cats, A Tasmanian devil. JLM Visuals. Reproduced by permission. badgers, and wild dogs. Tasmanian devils feed on a wide range of species, including domestic chickens and sheep.

Sometimes, individual Tasmanian devils will invade a chicken coop and create havoc there. Unfortunately, this and sheep-killing often turn out badly for the Tasmanian devil in the end. Because many people consider the Tasmanian devil a pest, this extraordinary and uncommon animal is still persecuted over much of its remaining native range. This is highly unfortunate, because the Tasmanian devil is the last of the large marsupial predators, and it is essential that this species survives the human onslaught on its habitat. Although not yet listed as an endangered species, the Tasmanian devil is much reduced in abundance.

Bill Freedman

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