For many, Australia’s most adorable animal is the Koala, with its fluffy ears and spoon-shaped nose endearing visitors of all ages from around the world. The Koala is distributed across South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, however, clearing of the koala’s habitat has drastically decreased numbers compared to pre-European settlement. Koalas found in southern areas are larger, have darker and longer fur and larger ears compared with their northern counterparts. The Koala is a very fussy eater and is limited to only 35 of Australia’s 600 eucalypt species. Some of the best viewing opportunities are located along the Great Ocean Road & You Yangs, Eyre Peninsula and Kangaroo Island.
The closest relative to the Koala is the Wombat, with three species endemic to the continent. Like the Koala, female wombats have backward facing pouches, protecting young from flying dirt as she burrows. Growing to 20-30kg, the wombat is the world’s largest burrowing mammal, with burrows branching into tunnels up to 30 metres long. Maria Island is one of the premium spots in Australia to view the Common Wombat, with viewing opportunities across Tasmania and East Gippsland. The Southern Hairy-nosed wombat has silkier greyish-brown fur and a much larger, squarer nose and is scattered in areas of semiarid scrub and mallee including the Eyre Peninsula.
Summer: Dec-Feb, East Gippsland
Grey-headed Flying Foxes are large fruit-eating bats that roost in camps of thousands of individuals during the day, which provides great viewing of their diverse social interactions. They fly out to feeding grounds at night. Most of their babies are born in spring, and by summer the juveniles are quite noticeable, clinging under their mothers arm. When they are tiny their mother carries them on her nightly flight, but after three weeks of age they are left in the roost with all the other youngsters. By January the young can fly and will forage with their mother.
Swamp Wallabies prefer denser vegetation of wet eucalypt forests or heaths in the region and have a beautiful dark brown or almost black fur. Their gait differs from other wallabies, with the Swamp Wallaby carrying its head low and tail out straight.
The warm evenings also provide the opportunity to see Yellow-bellied and Greater Gliders in the mature eucalypt forests. These remarkable creatures have a membrane of skin from their wrists or elbows to their ankles, enabling them to glide up to 100 between trees, as they search for insects and nectar to feed upon.
Spring: Sep-Nov, East Gippsland
The Common Wombat is a resident of the lush East Gippsland forests. Known for their remarkable digging and excavation prowess, they have very specific requirements before they come out of their underground burrows, with the temperature above ground required to be lower than 20 degrees Celsius. Cool nights in Spring are the best times to see them.
Echidnas are also active at this time, with November being the peak viewing time to see these intriguing animals across East Gippsland. Cool nights and mild sunny days make for perfect conditions for viewing echidnas in the daytime, as they are an animal that cannot tolerate high temperatures. They hibernate in winter and usually breed in spring. Females lay a single egg into a simple pouch in the abdomen about four weeks after mating.
Summer: Dec-Feb, Kangaroo Island
During the warm conditions in Summer, Kangaroo Island Kangaroos switch to being more active in cooler mornings and later in the day. Mild days see them out in the sun but hot days have them seeking deep shade to keep cool. Compared to their Western Grey cousins on the Australian mainland, Kangaroo Island Kangaroos are shorter, stockier, have luxurious chocolate brown fur with black tips (ears/feet/paws/tail).
Koala are active across the island as it is breeding season, with the deep and echoing calls from males being audible across the eucalypt forests.
Autumn: Mar-May, Kangaroo Island
In Autumn, young Tammar Wallabies are weaned off their mothers and form their own social groups. Normally timid and unapproachable, there are several places on the island where repeated visits with consistent quiet presence has lead to a level of tolerance, usually only seen through artificial feeding. This allows for excellent photographic and behavioral observation opportunities.
This is also an excellent time to see Kangaroo Island Kangaroo joeys following their mothers around, having left the pouches permanently. Short-beaked Echidnas on the island begin to enter periods of hibernation towards the end of Autumn because of their falling low body temperature.
Common Brushtail Possums usually have one joey at a time in Autumn. After birth, joeys spend around 120 days suckling in their mother’s pouch and can be seen riding on their mother’s back until they are fully weaned.
Winter: Jun-Aug, Kangaroo Island
Winter is the season that the island’s subspecies of the Short-beaked Echidna breeds. Echidnas are solitary except for breeding time when females have a lovely perfume (pheromone) which attracts up to 10 males (3 -5 more commonly) which follow the female in a procession which lasts for days on end.
The island’s echidnas are one of five sub-species across Australia and are renowned for their fast tongue and long spines covering the upper surface of the body compared with their mainland cousins. Amazingly their tongues protrude 18 cm from the tip of the snout and flick in and out over 100 times per minute.
The cooler conditions are ideal for spotting Kangaroo Island Kangaroos, often being spotted grazing in open pasture adjacent to woodlands.
Spring: Sep-Nov, Kangaroo Island
Spring is the time when kangaroo and wallaby joeys are seen emerging from the pouch for the first time, with individuals being totally independent by Autumn. Kangaroo Island Kangaroos are quite sociable and move as a mob with female young staying with mum to help out with younger joeys.
Koala mating begins to occur from September onwards until March, with females starting to breed at 3-4 years of age. Males are very territorial and will guard their small harem of females from rivals. Although Common Brushtail Possums usually have their joeys in Autumn, they are also known to breed in Spring. After the cooler conditions of winter, Short-beaked Echidnas will feast upon eat large amounts insects and larvae during Spring.
Summer: Dec-Feb, Maria Island
Maria Island is one of the hotspots in Australia to view Common Wombat that can be seen year round including summer. Growing to 20-30kg, Tasmania has it’s own subspecies, with this adept burrowing mammal seen in significant concentrations around all the former farming pastures on Maria, especially at Darlington at Return Point.
There are two wallabies found on Maria Island. The Bennett’s Wallaby has slightly different adaptations compared with its mainland cousin, the Red-necked Wallaby, with longer, darker and shaggier fur. Breeding typically commences late in the summer between February and April. Tasmanian Pademelons can also be spotted in or close to pockets of dense undergrowth.
December to February is also a great time to see young Tasmanian Devils as they become more independent from their parents. Found only in Tasmania, they are the world’s largest marsupial carnivore. In 2013 a group of 28 healthy devils were released on to the island as an ‘island insurance’ breeding program safeguard from the facial tumour disease currently affecting 90% of the population. They have now successfully bred to around 100 animals.
Autumn: Mar-May, Maria Island
The island’s population of Tasmanian Devils typically breed in March, with their young born in April after a 21 day gestation. Two or three survive from each litter and are carried in the mother’s pouch for about four months. Found only in Tasmania, they are the world’s largest marsupial carnivore and are successfully breeding across the island after being introduced in 2013.
Common Wombats are abundant across the island, with each individual having an established range in which it lives and feeds. At this time of year, it is typical to see this amazing burrowers grazing during the day in the open pastures. Interestingly, Tasmanian Devils are know to use wombat burrows around this time, as den sites for their young.
The Tasmanian Pademelon feeds on a wide variety of plants, from herbs, green shoots and grass, to some nectar-bearing flowers whilst the grasslands provide fantastic daytime viewing of Forester Kangaroos, Red-necked Wallabies and occasionally, the Short-beaked Echidna.
Spring: Sep-Nov, Maria Island
The Spring time is a peak season for seeing the numerous baby marsupials as they leave the pouch or dens to become more independent. Forester Kangaroos are easy to spot on the airstrip and pastures at Darlington, where gregarious groups of up to ten individuals commonly graze.
Tasmanian Pademelons and Bennett’s Wallabies also venture into the clearings in the late afternoon and evening, but prefer to reside in the thick undergrowth by day. The Tasmanian Pademelon will feed on a wide variety of plants, from herbs, green shoots and grass, to some nectar-bearing flowers.
The island’s population of Tasmanian Devils emerge from their dens with imps (baby devils) often seen on their backs towards the start of Spring. The devils emerge from or return to their dens at twilight or in the last hours of darkness in the morning. Imps are born in April and remain in pouch for 15 weeks and are completely weaned at 40 weeks. Common Wombats are also abundant at this time, with individuals being territorial and solitary with an established range for feeding.
Summer: Dec-Feb, Tasmania
The summer months are a peak time to see young carnivorous marsupials including Tasmanian Devils, Spotted-tailed and Eastern Quolls. Quolls are largely solitary animals and scavenge on insects and small mammals such as rabbits, mice and rats. They are found around various habitats, especially around Mt Field National Park.
December is the time to keep a lookout for baby Platypus and baby Ringtail Possums riding around on their mother’s back. Common Wombats avoid the heat of the day, coming out to graze in the mornings and afternoons when temperatures are lower. Although the wombat may breed at any time of the year, mating most often occurs during winter, so at this time, baby wombats can be seen in tow with their mothers.
Eastern-barred Bandicoots, Southern-brown Bandicoots, Long-nosed Potoroos, Forester Kangaroos, Bennett’s Wallabies, Tasmanian Pademelons and Tasmanian Bettongs are also commonly sighted with their young at this time.
Autumn: Mar-May, Tasmania
Macropod joeys such as Forester Kangaroos, Bennett’s Wallabies, Tasmanian Pademelons, Tasmanian Bettongs and Long-nosed Potoroos are typically weaned off their mothers around this time and follow their mothers around. The Long-nosed Potoroo feeds upon seeds, roots, bulbs, insects, but prefers underground fungi which is dug up using their strong forepaws.
Tasmanian Devils usually breed in March, with their young born in April after a 21 day gestation. Two or three survive from each litter and are carried in the mother’s pouch for about four months. Common Brushtail and Ringtail Possums also typically give birth from April onwards, with a couple of young remaining in the pouch for about four months.
This time of year also provides opportunities to see Short-beaked Echidnas before they enter periods of hibernation and Common Wombats, that are abundant at various national parks including Narawntapu and Cradle Mountain.
Winter: Jun-Aug, Tasmania
Eastern-barred and Southern-brown Bandicoots young are born between late May and December, with females having the ability to produce 3-4 litters of up to four young. Breeding also occurs in early winter for Eastern and Spotted-tail Quolls with females giving birth to up to 30 young, however, with only six teats, there is a high mortality rate.
The cooler conditions are ideal for spotting a range of marsupials including Common Wombats, Long-nosed Potoroos, Forester Kangaroos, Bennett’s Wallabies and Tasmanian Pademelons. Tasmanian Devils start to emerge from their dens towards the latter part of winter, with imps (baby devils) often seen on their backs. The devils emerge from or return to their dens at twilight or in the last hours of darkness in the morning.
Spring: Sep-Nov, Tasmania
Spring is the peak season for seeing a number of Tasmania’s baby marsupials as they leave the pouch for the first time including Forester Kangaroos, Bennett’s Wallabies, Tasmanian Pademelons, Common Brushtail and Ringtail Possums.
Long-nosed Potoroos and Tasmanian Bettongs have no specific breeding season, with animals capable of giving birth throughout the year, although there is a skew of young being born at the end of winter to early spring. The Tasmanian Bettong is only found in the eastern half of Tasmania and can be seen across the dry open eucalypt forests and grassy woodlands in late afternoons and early evening, being largely nocturnal.
The island’s population of Tasmanian Devils emerge from their dens with imps (baby devils) often seen on their backs towards the start of spring. Common Wombats are also abundant at this time.