A few months ago one of our lovely neighbors bought us a present; an echidna in a box. Most people in our area will rescue wildlife when they can, and this was no exception. The little echidna was wandering on the road and refused to get off when cars came, so the neighbor decided to pick him up. Young echidna can be very stubborn about right of way, a lot get run over that way. She delivered him to our place in a cardboard box, I often come home from work to find deliveries of cardboard boxes with scratching happening inside.
On opening the box, I was delighted and awed to see a juvenile echidna. I have never had one in care before and have only ever seen them in the bush rarely. My daughter made him up a box (a tough, plastic one because they can dig very well and love to escape) of gum leaves and soil with a shallow dish of water in the corner. We examined him as best we could (given that he kept curling into a spiky ball) and decided he didn’t have any obvious injuries. The next step was to ring the wildlife carers hotline and see what they advised.
The carer who rang me back is a specialist in monotremes (egg laying mammals) which is what an echidna is. After sending photos, getting weights and discussing the circumstances with her she eventually decided that we should let him go.
So we trotted off into the bush, well away from roads, with our passenger safe in a bucket. We walked him a fair way towards the back of our block and tipped him out onto the ground, then watched as he trundled away towards his new, hopefully safe, life.
Apologies in advance for the clips below being sideways. I must have held the phone sideways while filming it.
Echidna are amazing creatures; they are ancient proto-mammals which lay eggs and feed their young milk. One of only two species to do so (and both live only in Australia). They have spikes which are made of the same stuff as hair is; keratin and are hollow. Echidna eat white ants, and if I could convince one to live in my yard I would be very happy. In our area we sometimes see echidna, especially around August which is breeding season. They are not a common sighting though and I still get excited whenever I see one.
Echidna rarely eat or drink in captivity because they are such shy little beings. They prefer to just burrow down into a spiky ball clinging to the ground with their claws until the world gives up and leaves them alone. If you see one it is best to leave them alone to get on with life, unless they are noodling about on the road, then it is best to move them off the road to a safer place. You may have difficulty picking one up however as they have very strong hands and will cling to whatever they can get hold of. Keep some heavy leather gloves in the car for moving them (and other bitey, scratchy animals). This was a very amazing and inspiring encounter for me.