Trading rags with the devil

Occasionally devils take up residence and breed under houses, surprising the people living above. This spring, the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (STDP) has been keeping an eye on mothers living with their young in dens under homes in the Channel  and Huon regions. And offering advice as to why a bag of old rags can save a whole lot of expensive items from disappearing.

The Program has heard from a number of residences in the Cygnet, Petchys Bay and Gardners Bay area over the past few weeks, with reports of unusual noises and behaviour under their homes.

STDP Wildlife Biologist Bill Brown says it is common to receive calls at this time of year about devils denning their young under homes.

“People are worried when they hear the noises and they seek advice as to what to do,” Bill explains. “As the imps get older, their boisterous playing can be very amusing, but the noise and mess may, for some, be a bit oppressive. Anyone with any concerns about devils near their home can contact the STDP staff for advice.”

Devils start to wean their young by mid to late December and Bill says most people are happy to share their homes with devils once they have a better understanding of what is going on.

“One of our recent cases followed a report that devils were making noise under a house at Gardener’s Bay during the night,” Bill says. “The den site sits under the lowest part of the house and the devils have access under a small deck. Various items such as boots and pot plants were being taken so we set-up two cameras to record what was happening. The videos captured a mother with three imps, each about one-and-half kilograms in size, and shows the mum sunning herself on the edge of the deck with her young playing around her.”

“The female devil will pinch household items to line her den with, often taking items of clothing or chair cushions. The staff encouraged the owners to gather together a bag of old rags and put a couple out every now and then, to try to prevent shoes and other items being stolen. The people living in the house have reported back that each time they put out rags they are taken very soon after. In fact, one night a rag was placed, the mum was there within five minutes to collect it and then she came back looking for more!”

In another instance, STDP staff responded to reports of a tiny devil near a home at Petchys Bay. The little devil weighing just 330 grams was safely captured and placed with wildlife carers with a view to re-release in the future near Cygnet.

Bill Brown says many home owners are often happy for the devils to stay in the den under the house until the imps are weaned. Once the imps are independent the devil family will move out from under the house and life can return to normal for the human family inside the house.

If you have any questions about devils near your home, contact the STDP. They can give you advice, particularly information about safe ways to seal entrances once the devils have moved on.

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