Ever wondered how and where to see a Tasmanian Devil and what they are like? Once made famous in cartoons, this black, furry creature, the size of a small dog can be found in Tasmania.
On my epic trip around Australia, I spent 8 nights in Tasmania and got to stay for 2 nights in Cradle Mountain. As well as being a fantastic place for all outdoor pursuits including the Dove Lake Walk, it has the world’s best conservation centre for Tasmanian Devils, and I was off to learn more about them at Devils@CradleMountain.
We booked onto the After Dark Feeding Tour that runs at 5.30 pm and lasts for 1 hour 15 minute. The zoo is not huge, so you have plenty of time to see all of it on your visit. Visitors can find other tour information here.
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Coarse brown or black fur and an almost bear-like face make these nocturnal creatures look quite harmless. Don’t be fooled. They are voracious hunter scavengers preying on small animals and surviving on carrion (dead animals). Their bite is as bad as their bark, which incidentally is a high-pitched guttural wail, and they will happily fight amongst themselves for food!
Found only in Tasmania, it’s believed the species were forced into extinction on mainland Australia following the dingo’s introduction. But we weren’t going to see a Tasmanian Devil by chance as numbers are steadily declining by 85-90% due to Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), transferred through a bite to the face. In turn, the tumour spreads across the face suffocating the Tasmanian Devil, resulting in death.
They are also killed on the roads by vehicles. The odds of seeing one in the wild meant a sanctuary would be our best option to have an encounter. The good news was there just happened to be one near our accommodation in Cradle Mountain.
How and Where to See a Tasmanian Devil
The world-class conservation sanctuary, Devils@Cradle Mountain, is located at the entrance to Cradle Mountain National Park. Aiming to educate and inform the public, the zoo offers different opportunities to get up close and personal with these animals. We opted for the evening feeding tour when the Tasmanian Devils become active, ready to hunt and feed.
The largest of the world’s carnivorous marsupials, with the most powerful bite of all mammals, the Tasmanian devil weighs in at 7-10kg, and females give birth to 40 live babies at a time. With only four teats to feed the litter, only the strongest survive and remain with “mum” for four months. At this age, they become too large to stay in the pouch and so stay in the den for another 4-5 months, in which time their diet becomes carnivorous.
By nine months, they are fully independent and ready to go out into the world by themselves. A Tasmanian Devil’s natural life span is only 5-6 years.
Tasmanian Devil Evening Feeding Tour
Eager for their evening meal, they were pacing around their enclosures, waiting for food when we arrived. They were fighting with one another, and their screams were blood-curdling!
This sound is where they get their name “Devil”! Other members were oblivious to what was going on and were happily sunbathing in the last of the sunshine. A couple of them were just playing and chasing each other around the enclosures.
Suddenly all changed when the keeper entered the enclosure with his bucket of meat and the Tasmanian Devil’s sharp teeth quickly chomped through flesh and bone with ease. Although a solitary animal it is not territorial and so several adults fed together from each carcass, although for some of the groups, the result was much squabbling and growling!
Devils@Cradle Mountain is probably one of the only places you are guaranteed to have an encounter with these mysterious creatures, and so it is well worth a visit.
Have you ever heard of A Quoll?
Well, we certainly hadn’t but were delighted to learn about the nearest relative to the Tasmanian Devil. These black, brown and fawn spotted creatures look extremely cute and cuddly, but not all is as it seems.
The endangered species of the Spotted Tail Quoll and the Eastern Quoll are both carnivorous marsupials just like the Tasmanian Devil. The natural lifespan of a quoll is between 3-5 years.
Do the spots lead you to believe that this is an apex killer? Probably not, but the spotted-tailed Quoll are ferocious hunters, and although weighing in at between only 2-4kg, they can take out a wombat which is many times bigger.
They are territorial but will not think twice about scavenging food from the Tasmanian Devil. Primary threats to the Quoll species come from roadkill, poisoning and shooting by farmers, foxes, feral cats and dingoes.
Tasmania is the only place the Eastern Quoll can still be found; however, the Spotted-Tailed Quoll still has a few strongholds on mainland Australia.
Devils@Cradle is not a big sanctuary, but you will come away with better knowledge and understanding of these indigenous creatures at the end of your tour. You will also have helped towards the conservation of this species with your entry fee. This tour should be on your itinerary if you are visiting Tasmania.
Where else can you see a Tasmanian Devil?
There are a wealth of wildlife parks and sanctuaries across the state, and so if you are making a road trip around Tasmania, you can be sure to find somewhere to see a Tasmanian Devil. A few suggestions are as follows:
Useful Information on How to see a Tasmanian Devil
To help you to plan your visit, please refer to Devils @ Cradle Mountain Visitor Information.
Information can be found here for Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.
Driving Times to Devils@Cradle from:
Devonport 1 h 15 mins
Launceston 1h 50mins
Strahan 2 h
Hobart and Freycinet National Park 4h
Please bear in mind these are approximate timings but can change due to weather and road conditions.