For more than a year I have been finding holes dug by Echidnas – usually around ant nests and plant roots – without having even the smallest glimpse of an Echidna. There was a moment, about a month ago, where someone thought they saw one. By the time I got my camera out and we got close to the spot, the Echidna was long gone.
This morning, I was walking around the track inside our boundary fence with my sister and an Echidna just wandered onto the path in front of us. It wasn’t in a hurry, nosing around some fallen bark under a bracken frond for a while, then ambling back into the bush. Woo hoo! At last!
Echidnas are monotremes, which means they are egg laying mammals. The female Echidna will lay a single egg (which has a leathery casing) and carry this around with her in a temporary pouch. When the young Echidna emerges, she will suckle it from milk producing patches resembling pores. When the spines begin to form, after 45 to 5 days, the female places the baby, known as a puggle, into a nursery burrow, and plugs the entrance to keep it safe. She roams around looking for food, and returns to feed the puggle every few days.
When disturbed or frightened, Echidnas begin to dig into the ground, so that the only parts remaining above ground are the spines. They can do this very quickly and are very difficult to dislodge. It is a very effective defence strategy.
A few more details are contained in the captions beneath the following photographs.