Close calls with devils

Rowdy imps, strange noises at night put res­i­dents on edge

Sunday Tasmanian - - Front Page - ANNE MATHER

TASMANIAN devils have been found breed­ing un­der houses near Greater Ho­bart, sur­pris­ing res­i­dents con­fused by the bumps in the night.

Wildlife au­thor­i­ties have urged peo­ple to try to live with the spring­time ruckus un­til the ju­ve­nile devils leave home.

Even their oc­ca­sional dev­il­ish an­tics – such as steal­ing clothes for bed­ding – can be al­le­vi­ated with an of­fer­ing of sub­sti­tute rags.

“It’s the time of year when moth­ers are den­ning their young and they are now be­com­ing big enough to get bois­ter­ous,” Save the Tasmanian Devil Pro­gram wildlife bi­ol­o­gist Bill Brown said.

TASMANIAN devils have been found breed­ing un­der houses near Greater Ho­bart, sur­pris­ing res­i­dents con­fused by the bumps in the night. Wildlife au­thor­i­ties have urged peo­ple to try to live with the spring-time ruckus un­til the bois­ter­ous ju­ve­nile devils leave home. Even their oc­ca­sional dev­il­ish an­tics — such as steal­ing clothes for bed­ding — can be al­le­vi­ated with an of­fer­ing of sub­sti­tute rags. Save the Tasmanian Devil Pro­gram wildlife bi­ol­o­gist Bill Brown said he had been called out sev­eral times in re­cent weeks to homes south of Ho­bart in the Cygnet, Petcheys Bay and Gard­ners Bay area. He said it was com­mon at this time of year to hear of young devils un­der homes, and he had even had re­ports of ju­ve­nile devils (called imps) un­der homes in Sandy Bay, Ta­roona and Le­nah Val­ley.

“It’s the time of year when moth­ers are den­ning their young and they are now be­com­ing big enough to get bois­ter­ous,” Mr Brown said.

“Peo­ple be­come wor­ried when they hear the noises and they seek ad­vice as to what to do.

“As the imps get older, their bois­ter­ous play­ing can be very amus­ing, but the noise and mess may, for some, be a bit op­pres­sive.

“Any­one with any con­cerns about devils near their home can con­tact the Save the Tasmanian Devil Pro­gram for ad­vice.”

Mr Brown said the be­hav­iour gen­er­ally died down mid to late De­cem­ber, when devils started to wean their young and the fam­ily left the den.

He urged peo­ple to try to put up with the noise un­til then, and leave out rags for devils if they were steal­ing items for bed­ding.

“The fe­male devil will pinch house­hold items to line her den with, of­ten tak­ing items of cloth­ing or chair cush­ions,” Mr Brown said.

He said a re­cent case in­volved a devil steal­ing boots and a coir pot, af­ter dis­card­ing the plant in it.

To prove the iden­tity of the cul­prits, Mr Brown set up a wildlife cam­era to record what was hap­pen­ing.

“The videos cap­tured a mother with three imps, each about one-and-half kilo­grams in size, and shows the mum sun­ning her­self on the edge of the deck with her young play­ing around her.”

In an­other in­stance, STDP staff re­sponded to re­ports of a devil near a home at Petcheys Bay, where they found a lit­tle devil weigh­ing just 330g.

Mr Brown said most calls were cur­rently com­ing from around Cygnet and Huonville, and all the devils he had in­spected had no signs of Devil Fa­cial Tu­mour Dis­ease.

Mr Brown in­spected a home at Gard­ners Bay on Thurs­day, where healthy young devils about 1.3kg in size have be­come ac­cus­tomed to of­fer­ings of rags left on a deck.

“The res­i­dents there are very taken by the devils and en­joy watch­ing them run­ning around on their deck.”

He said devils tended to favour older houses with stone foun­da­tions.

“They will go to the deep­est dark­est cor­ner, which is nice and se­cure and dry.”

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