Thursday, May 31, 2007

Prickly Education

There are things that suck about living on a property. Right now its the lack of water. The gardens and trees look dead and the pond has evaporated completely. Cracked dirt and dust are normal around Australia at the moment. It sucks that the shops aren't just down the street. For some people on properties, it really sucks that they can't get broadband Internet. Still!

But there are good things. Like the fact that you can walk outside in the raw and hang a leak on a gumtree while you gaze up into the brilliant night sky that most city dwellers just don't get to see from their back yard. There's the fact that the neighbours are so far away that you'll never get a complaint from them about your stereo being turned up too loud. If you want to take a half-hour walk, you can without even leaving your property.

So I was outside tonight, exercising my right to relieve myself on one of my gum trees when Merlin takes a swipe at something under my car. He sort of batted at something near the front tyre and quickly tried to take a bite... and then instantly lost interest. He never barked at it or yelped or anything. Just lost interest. Immediately. I thought he might have had a go at a cane toad, but that would be strange because Merlin is a dog in Australia and there are only two kinds of dogs in Australia. Dogs that ignore cane toads and ex-dogs. So after I had finished and zipped up (its getting a bit cool to be exercising the "right-to-be-naked") I went to take a look. It was dark and under the car and it moved.

It wasn't a cane toad - it was bigger than a cane toad.

It wasn't a snake - snakes don't make a sound when they move.

All I could think about then was that it could be a dropbear.
It is a disturbing trend, but many people seem to take great pleasure in spreading fear and mis-information. Sadly, the Australian Dropbear is another victim of this type of treatment. For many years, visitors to Australia havebeen warned of this almost mythical sounding creature which stalks the forest canopy, waiting for a meal to pass by below. Whilst wide-eyed newcomers are listening intently to this new information, the informant-turned-storytellermay stoop to embelishment. This is unacceptable, as the threat posed to humans by the Dropbear is very real, and should be treated with the utmost seriousness.
- Ashley Gittins

So I left it well alone and went to look for a light. Whatever it was, it was small enough to fit under the car but big enough to make Merlin leave it the hell alone.

An echidna. How cool is that? This is only the second or third I have seen in the wild. I don't count an animal in the zoo as being "seen", that's more "displayed". While I'm not an expert, I do know that although this guys are covered in really sharp spines, that they're shy, timid little things with no teeth to speak of, so it wasn't exactly going to tear my throat out.

If it was a dropbear I might have been in trouble, but it wasn't so I was okay.

So I got a towel and tried to unwedge him from under my X-90 wheel. Another thing I do know about the echidna is that they are not car proof. Under a car wheel is not an ideal place for them to be.

Okay, enough about what I already knew about echidnas and onto the things that I soon found out. They are strong little buggers. It was quite a job unwedging him from under the tyre.

Something else I found out is that a towel is not the ideal protection from the spines. The spines just popped right through several layers of the towel fabric, but I was careful not to hurt him or break any of his spines. I found out why Merlin gave up so quickly.

And Merlin learned something too. I couldn't tell you what it is, I don't speak dog. But I'm sure he learned something. He's okay. I've checked him over and he looks good. What can I say? They hurt. Don't swat an echidna. That's probably the lesson he learned.

I brought the echidna wrapped up in a towel into the kichen and put him on the floor. He laid on his back curled up into a ball, spines in every direction. I took some photos and then carried him down into the garden and let him go.

Anyhoo, I just wanted to tell y'all that I got an echidna roaming the bush at my place. Drive carefully when visiting.


Anonymous said...

really interested to see the echinda, but the photos won't go to larger for me, will have to wait till i go to your place to see the bigger photos.
how cool was that to see but.jacui xoxox

Dgar said...

All fixed. Clicking on them will now take you to a gallery on my PicassaWeb site. Enjoy!