Spike in echidna sightings in shire

An echidna on steps in Como Pleasure Grounds before its visit to Blackfish Cafe. Picture: Como resident, Michelle
An echidna on steps in Como Pleasure Grounds before its visit to Blackfish Cafe. Picture: Como resident, Michelle

An echidna caused a stir when it wandered into the Blackfish Cafe in Como Pleasure Grounds and under a table where two women were sitting.

The incident, which occurred last weekend, is among a spate of recent sightings of echidnas in Sutherland Shire.

Wildlife rescue organisation WIRES has received six reports from the shire during November, the others being at Engadine, Bonnet Bay, Alfords Point and two in Yarrawarrah.

"We had another 12 reports during October, most simply needing the echidna to be observed and left alone," spokesman John Grant said.

Blackfish Cafe in Como Pleasure Grounds. Picture: supplied

Blackfish Cafe in Como Pleasure Grounds. Picture: supplied

Mr Grant said echidnas were seen out and about more in Spring, often in unusual places, and they travelled long distances looking for food.

Nearly all of WIRES' 28 branches were getting calls, he said.

Mr Grant said, unless they were injured, they should not be approached or contained, but left to find their own way back into their natural habitat.

Local resident Michelle was walking in Como Pleasure Grounds about 3pm on Saturday, November 13, when she saw an echidna on steps.

Michelle called WIRES for advice while continuing to watch the "little guy" as it made its way towards Blackfish Cafe, where it burrowed under a plastic blind.

Michelle passed on to cafe staff the advice she received, which was to leave it alone.

"Unfortunately, a couple of people were in its face and trying to take photos before being encouraged to keep away," she said.

Blackfish Cafe manager Kaylah Smith said the echidna "did a bit of a wander under a table where a couple of ladies were sitting and then walked across the deck area".

"Everyone got a bit excited and it became frightened and curled up in the corner," she said.

An orphaned puggle in WIRES care lapping up a special milk formula. Picture: supplied

An orphaned puggle in WIRES care lapping up a special milk formula. Picture: supplied

"When everything quietened down, it just wandered back into the bush."

WIRES experts were unable to tell from a photo the age or sex of the echidna.

"Neither the size nor weight of an echidna is a useful indicator of age, maturity or gender," Mr Grant said.

"Some 12 to 18 month old echidnas can weigh less than they did when they were weaned off their mother, if they have had difficulty in learning to forage for themselves.

"Sexually mature males can also drop considerable amounts of weight after mating, due to the extra energy used up when following the females."

Mr Grant said echidnas found wandering in unusual areas were generally just passing through on the hunt for food.

"However, if residents have concerns about one in their garden or near a roadway or public path please, call WIRES and we can assess the situation and rescue the animal if in danger of being injured," he said.

"It is important not to attempt to relocate adult echidnas as they could have left their puggles in nearby burrows and these young will die of starvation if mum is taken away."

Mr Grant said echidnas feed their young every 7 - 10 days and close up their burrows every time they leave to go searching for food.

"They have a large territorial range of up to 50 hectares and termites are one of their favourite foods," he said.

"So, you should always make them feel very welcome by keeping pets contained when they're passing through because you'll also be getting a free termite inspection.

"As female echidnas carry their young in their pouch for the first month should you find one that's been hit by a car please always check around the surrounding area.

"The shock of a road incident or predator attack can cause the pouch muscles to relax and the puggle will fall out and be unable to fend for itself.

"The other common way puggles come into WIRES care is when their burrow is disturbed by digging, especially with earth moving equipment so WIRES always recommends keeping a watchful eye for any little pink bodies.

"Puggles are fed specially formulated milk every 4 - 5 days and will lap up to 25 per cent of their bodyweight.

"After weaning they are transferred into a custom built echidna rehabilitation pen for around six months to learn to dig and forage for themselves before being released back into the area they were found."

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