The spiney Short-beaked Echidna
The Short-beaked Echidnas on Kangaroo Island are a sub-species of those found on the mainland. They appear to be common across the Island due to suitable habitat and whilst they still face threats, including feral cats, goannas and vehicles, there are a relatively small number of significant predators. Exact population numbers remain a mystery, although recorded sightings have declined in some areas on the Island.
Kangaroo Island Echidna Facts
The echidna is a stocky animal covered with sharp spines on its back and sides. Its long, thin snout houses a sticky tongue used to catch food. It has a pouch to incubate its egg and carry its baby ‘puggle’.
The echidna feeds on a wide variety of invertebrates, including termites, ants, grubs, and beetles. Echidnas use their feet and beak to reach their food, they will lift bark and even flip rocks to discover a tasty meal.
Short-beaked echidnas are found across Kangaroo Island in woodlands, heaths, mallee and coastal areas. They seem to prefer good quality habitat and deep leaf litter but are also seen walking across agricultural land and crossing roadsides, so please take care when driving.
Where to find them
Short-beaked Echidnas are generally solitary, feeding day and night and sheltering in hollow logs, under piles of debris, in self-constructed burrows and among tree roots. During the breeding season from May–September male echidnas form ‘trains’ behind females, where up to six males will follow one female hoping to become the successful suitor! While elusive they are relatively common and can be found across Kangaroo Island in all types of habitats and tend to be a fortuitous find as you are wandering in the bush or spotted slowly waddling across the road.
How to watch them
With exceptional hearing and a good sense of smell, echidnas will freeze when disturbed and then curl into a ball, often trying to bury themselves in the leaf litter or soil. If you find an echidna, you will need to give it a few metres of space, sit ever so still, and very patiently for it to emerge and continue on its way. If you remain silent and very still, you will be rewarded with a window of time watching these quirky little creatures go about their business.
Did you know?
There are many quirky details about this native Australian creature. A baby echidna is called a puggle! Echidna’s belong to the monotreme family, they have both mammalian and reptilian traits. Echidnas produce milk, but lay eggs, they have a pouch to hold and nurture their young and also have hair and spines – and their hind feet point backwards!