Tasmanian Devils are the largest living carnivorous marsupial, standing at 80-90cm in height and weighing anywhere from 6-14kgs. They have thick black fur, with fleshy pink ears and snout, and a white strip of fur running across their collar bone from shoulder to shoulder. They have shorter hind legs than front legs, and a strong, powerful jaw with large canines top and bottom.
Tasmanian Devils are carnivorous opportunistic scavengers, feeding on the carcasses of medium-large vertebrates such as mammals and birds, as well as large invertebrates. They will gorge themselves on meat, consuming up to 40% of their own body weight in one feed. There may be a small group of individuals feeding on the one carcass at once.
Tasmanian Devils are primarily solitary animals, living in territories that may intersect other individual’s territories. Each territory will have 3-4 dens, which can be utilised for years, especially by females with young. In the weeks leading up to oestrus, females will develop a fat roll on the back of their neck, and will slowly decrease their food intake. Mating rituals involve males fighting over a female, with the victor then attempting to “woo” the female. The male and female will exchange vocalisations and re-enact the male-male fighting, without causing actual harm. Once a male has convinced a female that he is strong enough and genetically fit, he will bite the fat roll on her neck and drag her to the den for mating. Copulation can last anywhere from 12 hours to 5 days, with the male resting to watch the opening to the den in case of other males. A female can mate with several males in one breeding cycle, and males will mate with as many females as possible to ensure their genetics continue. After a gestation period of around 21 days, a female will give birth to up to 40 joeys. Only a maximum of 4 joeys will survive, as the female only has 4 teats in her pouch. All unsuccessful joeys are eaten by the mother for protein. The joeys will develop in the pouch for approximately 16 weeks, and are then placed in the den where they will dig their own side-dens for protection against other devils and predators. At 36 weeks of age, joeys are independent and will leave the den shortly after.
In the wild, Tasmanian Devils suffer from a terrible and deadly disease called “Devil Facial Tumour Disease” (DFTD). This disease causes large, painful tumours to develop on the Tasmanian Devil’s face and neck, disabling them from eating or drinking. Within 3 months an infected individual will most likely starve to death. The disease is transmitted primarily through saliva when biting.