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.

Echidna
I’m not sure if this Echidna was a male or a female, but it was quite relaxed as it ambled onto the path.
Echidna
The combination of fur and spines keeps the Echidna both warm and safe from predators. When burrowing into the ground, it is impossible to pick them up without being pierced by the spines..
Echidna
The Echidna seemed to be investigating something beneath this strip of bark. Perhaps there were ants  or worms under it?
Echidna
Whatever was under the bark didn’t hold its attention for long. Just as quickly as it had appeared, the Echidna disappeared into the bush.
Echidna diggings
This is the kind of digging Echidnas do over large ant nests. The dig into a tunnel dug by the ants, and use their long tongue to feed on the ants below ground. So, it is often easier to see where they have been than to find an actual Echidna. They have a home range up to 70 hectares, and tend to wander around as they please, not sticking to a regular route.