I would usually never post a picture as blurry and just plain lousy as this one below, but I don’t often find myself face to face (or feet to face) with a Tasmanian devil.

I’ve been camping in Maria Island National Park here in Tasmania. On this second night, I heard the devil screeching and growling outside my tent but assumed it was a ways off in the brush as usual. As I opened my tent flap and stuck out my feet to put on my shoes, I saw it in the last bits of twilight: it turned toward me and approached very tentatively. I started to think that perhaps it was merely a black cat because there was just no way I could be having this close of an encounter with the Tassie devil, right? But once it was within a foot or two, there was no longer any doubt. It suddenly bolted off in another direction, which may or may not have been a commentary on my foot odor. I went ahead putting on my shoes and went about my business, excited at finally seeing an elusive devil while also regretting that I’d been unable to get a picture.

But when I got up to the bathrooms 50 yards away, there it was again. I had just enough time to pull out my phone and shine my headlamp on it before it scurried off again. I would see it a third time a bit later as I was writing the first draft of this post (I was so excited that I had to get something on the blog and Facebook ASAP) and would hear it nosing around my tent a little later in the night.

As you may know, the devils are a threatened species, in part for the usual reasons involving hunting and habitat destruction, but also due to a contagious cancer. Yes, contagious cancer. However, the animals are staging a comeback thanks to some fast evolution and also due to some successful conservation efforts, some of which are centered here on Maria Island. So the young devil I just saw is one of the disease-free herd. More info in this National Geographic article.

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