I’ve seen an echidna – a wild echidna! First we could only just see it, hiding under the wooden steps, all huddled up, and then later on that afternoon we saw it out and about in the paddock. It was much bigger than an English hedgehog, with longer, fatter spines, thick hair, and has the funniest little snout, about as long and thick as my finger.
The echidna (also known as a spiny ant-eater) and the platypus are the only egg-laying mammals, or monotremes. The female echidna lays one soft-shelled egg and puts it straight in her pouch. It hatches about ten days later, and the young echidna stays in the pouch for seven or eight weeks, sucking milk from two milk patches, until it starts to develop spines. The mother then digs a burrow where it remains for about seven months, until it is weaned. Echidnas have short, strong legs, and long claws to tear up soft logs and anthills in search of prey. They have tiny mouths and no teeth, but do have a long sticky tongue to gather up ants or termites.
As soon as the echidna saw us it pressed itself into the ground in an effort to hide, and we had to wait a good few minutes until he popped his snout out and bumbled off again.