Nov 14, 2012

Animal Antics

by Michelle Douglas

Oh, I’ve met some interesting animals recently!

Last month the hubby and I drove from Newcastle to Melbourne, put the car on the Spirit of Tasmania, and spent 2 weeks in Hobart. Now I could wax lyrical about the beauty and grandeur of Lakes Pedder and Gordon, the achingly idyllic native landscape of Port Arthur and the spectacular coastal scenery of Bruny Island, but…

What I want to share with you today are the animals I met while I was away. Hey, you know we LoveCats are suckers for animals. :-)

Here’s Molly the pig. Isn’t she just adorable!

Molly was an unexpected surprise. On Day 1 of our trip we just decided to drive from Newcastle towards Melbourne until we felt like stopping. We stopped at Springhurst—a tiny, tiny place—and stayed at The Old Butter Factory for the night where Molly was the resident pig. (Okay, I couldn’t resist this pic either, but isn’t it a fab building).

I’ve not patted a pig before and I was surprised by how coarse Molly’s hair was. She was a real sweetheart—adored a scratch behind her ears.

And for some reason, there were a couple of peacocks wandering around too.

Okay, once in Tasmania it’s non-negotiable: we have to see Tasmanian devils. And we did. At a wildlife sanctuary called Bonorong Park.

Here we met Fred, the baby wombat.

And here’s Fred and me touching noses. If I’d known at this point precisely how aggressive teenage wombats could be, there’s no way I’d have done this.

Billy the koala was a real hit with the two carloads of Asian tourists. We all got to pet Billy and his fur was sooooo soft.

Kangaroos! Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve patted a kangaroo? Okay, I know I’m sounding like a tourist, but it was fun!

And the stars of the show—the Tasmanian Devils. They’re certainly not as cute as Billy, but I believe they have a certain charm. Our guide destroyed many of the myths surrounding them. Yes, if you stick a finger in front of their nose you will probably lose it. They have seriously powerful jaws. That said, with each other they’re more bluff than bite. They know how much damage they can inflict on each other so they work at being scary rather than bite-y.

For a long time it was believed they were a threat to livestock and were hunted accordingly, but they’re scavengers not predators. Now, due to their dwindling numbers, a couple of problems have arisen throughout the island. Once upon a time the devils completely picked cleaned the carcasses of dead livestock, often before a farmer even knew an animal was dead. These days, however, there are more carcasses than devils and flyblown sheep have become a problem. Also, the fox population is on the increase. Devils enter the dens and eat the fox’s young, but now there’s not so many of them… Well, you get the picture.

And therein ends today's lesson. :-)

I couldn’t believe what an endearing relationship the guide had with these two devils. I swear, they LOVED him.

So… What less-than-cute-and-fluffy animal do you have a bit of a soft spot for? And to help us all get into the Christmas spirit I’ll give away an advance copy of my December release The Nanny Who Saved Christmas to one commenter.


  1. Well ... I can't think of any living/breathing animals that are "less than cute and fluffy" to tell you about. What immediately comes to mind, though, is our collection of bedraggled stuffed animals around here. Because my husband was allergic to animal fur for over 20 years (but is much better recently), we ended up with dozens of stuffed animals instead. Now don't ask me their names (as they all had/have names, ya know), but they've all had their place in my kids' and my lives. We aren't very original, though. We have three "identical triplet" bears (one for my daughter, one for my son, and one for me, of course!), and their names are Bear, Bear, and Bear. We can tell the differences in each, mind you, but we still have those bears sitting prominently on our beds after (well) over 15 years now. Oops.

  2. Michelle, thanks for sharing the photos. I'm particularly intrigued by the one of the ranger cradling a Tassie Devil! I've never seen that before.

    The less than fluffy animal I've got a real soft spot for is the Blue Tongue Lizard. We get them in the yard here and they sometime give me a fright when I'm reading as I see that smooth, scaly-looking body move through the plants just out of reach and think it's a snake till I see the legs and face and realise it's just a friendly blue tongue (great for ridding the garden of snails). I love it when they come out to bask on the path occasionally. Slow moving and, I think, rather benign.

  3. Oh, Laney, I love Bear, Bear and Bear! I love how you can all tell them apart. What great fun and what a gorgeous tradition.

  4. Annie, the ranger was a real sweetheart. Bonolong Park is involved in a devil breeding program so he'd been involved with this pair (sisters) since they'd been tiny. There were lots of sets of devils and he said there were some pens he wouldn't go into. But he sat on the ground with food in his shirt pocket and these two climbed all over him looking for it, and then they curled up at his feet!

    Ah, blue tongue lizards. I have a soft spot for them too. We have one that often suns himself on the path between the laundry and the clothesline. I have to be careful not to step on him. :-)

  5. I love Grey Headed Flying Foxes. There's a colony near us. I used to spend time doing bush regeneration in their habitat till the knees got too old.
    I still hear them at night in the garden.
    I know people who rear orphans, and they look really cute with dummies in their mouths wrapped in handkerchiefs in a kind of baby shoe,


  6. Laine, I know lots of people are a bit "creeped" out by flying foxes, but I think them kind of cute too. We have a pretty big colony (not sure what kind of flying foxes they are, though) in a nearby nature reserve and just after dusk at this time of year the sky can be filled with them. It's quite a sight!

  7. Baby kangaroos are so adorable! I've never seen them in real life but I have from tv and online videos. Almost any animal when they are babies seem so harmless and almost approachable.

  8. Na, I hope you get a chance to pet a baby kangaroo because they truly are adorable. And a hint, they love their chests scratched. Instinct has us reaching to fondle their ears and the tops of their heads, but in Kangaroo speak that's the equivalent of "leave me alone." :-)

  9. For a while on television I became interested in/addicted to watching MEERKAT MANOR. They are so incredibly territorial & have such complex societies. The team who documented, of course, gave them all names, so it becomes the animal equivalent of day time soap.

  10. Mary, Meerkat Manor sounds like such fun! It's the kind of thing I think could find myself getting addicted to as well. And meerkats are soooo cute!

  11. I love the tuatara - so majestic and olde world. I feel an affinity in its lifestyle too - laying in the sun and not moving too much! Not too keen on the diet of bugs though :-) But my utmost favourite is the orangutan - Squee!!! I got to meet a mum and her baby once in Singapore and it was a totally memorable and magical moment, one I'l never forget. Would love to see a baby elephant for real too. One day...

  12. Great post! Love those devils. Did he tell you that they can flush all their blood into their ears to that they 'glow' all red and horn-like? Way cool adaptation.

    I am very partial to my Green Tree-frogs which live in an enormous terrarium which sits in the middle of our living room. They have individusal personalities and strengths/weaknesses and they're very sweet and placid.

    Like snakes, everyone imagines frogs to be slimy but they're not, they're quite velvety and soft and warm(even when wet), and they sit so trustingly in my hand on the rare occasions we need to move them.

  13. I think they are all adorable. I care for ferals/strays and since I leave food out for them, I get possums, raccoons, and even a skunk (but just once I think on that one lol). I have to say I am pretty sure I have one of the largest racoons ever. I started seeing one during the day which I know is not a good thing usually, but I found out if they are pregnant the females will look for food at all times of day. It got to where she would stand up at my back door and ask for more. I am not entirely stupid so I only open the door a crack but enough that she takes it from me. One early, dark morning she came with two adorable babies. The are pretty big now too but I always know the mom because she comes to the door and waits for me lol.

  14. Clare, I had to go and google Tuatara. And I absolutely agree -- very old worldy. I love anything that looks like a dragon. :-)

    You got to meet an orangutan mum and baby!!! Oh, I'd squee very loudly about that too!

  15. I had a feeling this post might appeal to you, Nikki. :-) I learnt loads about the devils, but not the ear-thing. Cool!

    Aww, green tree frogs. Very, very cool. Love frogs and I love the sound of your terrarium.

    We have a green tree snake that often suns himself on our front veranda. So pretty and delicate and graceful. That said, I'm not going to try to handle him. Think he might take exception to that. :-)

  16. Catslady, I wouldn't be able to resist feeding that raccoon mum either. I bet those babies are gorgeous. I've never laid eyes on a raccoon -- other than on the telly etc -- so am very jealous. :-)

  17. Love all those animals, Michelle. Australia has some fabulous ones. I have a soft spot for the Pukeko. It's a bird, though. Blue with a bright red beak and annoys the farmers like crazy. But I love them.

  18. I had to google Pukeko, Sue. The blue is lovely, but I had to laugh at this Wikipedia description: Pukeko are known for their bold scheming and determination. :-) Sound exactly like the kind of bird a writer would love!

  19. Laine, you're the winner of the signed copy of The Nanny Who Saved Christmas! Email me at michelle (AT) michelle - douglas . com with your postal addy and I'll pop the book in the mail for you.

    And thanks everyone for sharing your cute and unique animal soft spots!

  20. Michelle, thank you for posting those photos! I've wanted a pig for years, but dh vetoes the idea. Seeing the gorgeous Molly makes me even more keen. :)

  21. Rach, I think a pig would make the perfect pet! :-)