The short-beaked echidna is a small to medium-sized animal, usually between 30 and 45 cm in length. Its most distinctive characteristic is its coat of hard spines. It is equipped with powerful forelimbs and clawed feet, and is capable of burrowing at high speeds.
But what about the eggs? This is what makes echidnas special. They are monotremes: egg-laying mammals.
Echidnas are also known as ‘spiny anteaters’, but – although their diet consists of ants and termites – they are not related to the anteaters of the Americas. Nor are echidna’s related to porcupines or hedgehogs.
Echidnas tongues are covered in sticky mucus that makes it easier for them to catch and snack on ants and termites, eating up to two kilograms in one meal. They have no teeth and mash up the ants and termites they eat between the roof of their mouth and their tongue.
What can you do to help echidnas?
- If you do come across an echidna, don't assume it is lost. In cities, their biggest enemies are dogs and cats, so these should always be locked up or kept well away until the echidna has moved on.
- Unless the echidna is actually injured, don't be tempted to pick it up or move it to another location. It may have a hungry baby in a burrow nearby which is waiting for it to return. Young Echidnas will remain with their mother in the nest for up to a year, only making their first appearance around spring time.
- If you find any injured wild animal, it's best to call a local wildlife rescue service for advice.
DID YOU KNOW baby echidnas are called 'puggles'. Just like kangaroos echidnas also have pouches so if you see one that has been hit by a car it's a great idea to check their pouches for puggles.Just make sure that you watch out for their spikes!