The wildlife seems to get wilder every day: Giant Echidnas & Other Strange Things

Yesterday afternoon on our walk two four legged critters crossed the track at speed and at a considerable distance such that I could not quite work out what they were. The only giveaway was the white spot I noticed on the rump of the second one. When I arrived at the place they had crossed the ground was too hard for tracking. Then I began to hear their infernal growling which indicated a war was in progress between two of these guys. (Apologies for the poor quality shot – I only had my phone with me).

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Koala

They do say that once you start to see them there are already too many koalas and that they are beginning to destroy the forest. Anyway there are probably enough to begin harvesting them for their beautiful coats. This one had a particularly luxuriant growth. They would be easy enough to drop out of a tree eg with a .22 short, or a sling, or a spear.

When I was a kid folk used to ‘spotlight’ critters like this (mainly possums – everything was tucker back then) by walking the full moon along the branches of a tree, then plinking them down with the help of the old Lithgow .22 single shot. PS. We usually see one or more of these little guys too. There must be plenty of ants around.  There are also almost innumerable swamp wallabies and grey kangaroos.

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Echidna

Update: Cryptic Critters

I know you will think this insane…but on several occasions when we lived at Tarwin Lower years ago we saw giant echidnas (the kind they have in New Guinea). These fellows were as big as a 3/4 grown wombat. They had as much free air under their bellies when they walked as the normal height of an echidna – who could have walked under them. one crossed the road in front of our car near Middle Tarwin one morning on our way to work; another Ray Jesse, (a fellow hunter) and myself saw whilst searching for hog deer sign (which we found) on the Five Mile Track (towards Walkerville from Tarwin Lower – a beautiful access track to the beach. Years ago you used to be able to drive right down it, then along the beach for fishing, etc.

Yesterday I saw yet another again just outside Yinnar. it was not quite so large but was curled up, much larger than a basketball! I am wondering whether if these guys survive bushfires, predation & etc they sometimes just keep growing, or whether there actually are two species of them here in Southern Victoria! Clearly they are able to sense an approaching bushfire and quickly dig themselves in to escape being burned – as there is a veritable plague of them just out of Yinnar where the bush was badly burned during the ‘Black Saturday’ bushfires, not so long ago.

Speaking of wombats: Della and I once observed a wedge tailed eagle pick up a 3/4 grown wombat (on our hill at the farm at Jeeralang Junction), carry it 30-40 metres into the air then drop it. This was clearly his way of killing the beast. On this occasion the wombat recovered quickly and scurried off. (They are tough!) A pair of wedge-tails nest each year in a large blue gum about a km up the valley from our dam. There must be innumerable old rabbit traps in their nest which must be at least 6′ in diameter!

Once when out deer hunting i saw a wedge tail take a full-grown swamp wallaby. I heard (I could then) briefly the whistle of the air through its pinions as it dive-bombed him, then he hit him in the back of the head. His talons drove all the way into the wallaby’s brain and he was dead in an instant, eagle and wallaby tumbling over each other as he fell. I approached to about 6′ away, but the eagle threatened me and would not give up his kill. I saw so many things in the past before there were digital cameras and when it cost over $1 a shot to take a snap ( so that i could not afford the photography – and the cameras seldom worked in the dimness of the forest anyway)

My oldest daughter and I encountered another ‘strange’ creature which inhabited Tarwin Lower whilst out rabbit shooting c1985 at Tarwin Meadows. in the distance we had spied a large reddish quadruped which we though at first was a donkey on account of its enormous ears. After carefully stalking it to within 20-30 yards we ascertained that it was unmistakably actually a large male red kangaroo of the type which inhabits central Australia, so at least 1,000 km out of place. You could not miss its huge long, powerful forearms. The late Laurie Sutherland, the Postmaster at Tarwin Lower at the time, a man born there at the beginning of the C20th told me that they had ‘always’ inhabited the district.

On several occasions in the 1980s Della and I observed a striped fox crossing the road between Middle Tarwin and Koonwarra. It had vertical black and gold bands just like a Tassiie Tiger. I have a poor quality 35mm photo somewhere of just such a black and gold striped dingo (dead and hanging on a fence) which I snapped at Stockdale, Gippsland many years ago.

My friend Brett Irving and I observed another strange creature in the bush on the eastern face of Mt Useful years ago (1980s) whilst deer hunting. We were just below a huge patch of Banyalla and had stopped for a spell and a yarn. Whilst we were sitting on a rock enjoying the view and a muesli bar this strange creature walked across the ridge about 20 metres below us. It was stock, about the size of a koala bear, but was very light grey, almost white, had a long sinuous body and a long flowing tail. The closest either of us could get to describing it was a miniature of the ‘Luck Dragon’ from the film, ‘The Neverending Story’. I suppose it to have been some strange breed of dog which had been lost by tourists – but who knows what it was.

Brett and I have had many adventures in the bush: we also heard a bull moose calling at Supper Cove Fiordland NZ in 2,000. I think it is strange that in all my wanderings I have never seen the ‘Black Panther’ or the ‘Yowie’ that so many folk report. Another deer hunting friend of mine Rob (& Carol) Stoddard though (whose eyes and reliability I would trust absolutely) had a large black cat cross the road in front of his vehicle many years ago, also near Mt Useful, Gippsland. I myself have seen a Carpet Python crossing the road (in the Watagan Mountains NSW in the 1970s) which was at least 10 metres long! There is a lot of bush out there.

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