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Vitality Vetcare

Phone: 02 6687 0675
4a Ballina Rd Bangalow
NSW 2479 Australia

Integrative Medicine

Integrative Medicine

There is no separation between conventional and natural therapies.

Our priority is what is going to be of the most benefit to your animal.

Voluntary Wildlife Care

Voluntary Wildlife Care

Pro-bono treatment of Australian wildlife

We collaborate with local wildlife groups to provide excellent care of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife

Herbal Medicine

Herbal Medicine

We use Western and Chinese herbal medicines for a wide range of acute and chronic problems including skin, digestive, nervous and painful conditions.

Vitality Vetcare Homeopathy

Vitality Vetcare Homeopathy

Homeopathy can be a safe and effective treatment for a wide range of acute and long-term problems for a particular animal or group of animals.


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Amazing Echidnas

on Wednesday, 06 July 2016. Posted in Vitality Vetcare Latest News and Events

Fun facts about our spikey friends

Can you see the 2 echidna in this enclosure at Healsville Sanctuary?

The short beaked echidna is an amazing animal! Read some of the fun facts that Dr Megan Kearney learned when she did a special project on the short beaked echidna whilst spending a month doing a post-grad student placement at the Australian Wildlife Health Centre, Healesville Sanctuary in May 2016.

What is a baby echidna called? Do echidnas have teeth?

Did you know that Echidnas are great swimmers even in the ocean and that they can climb up to 2m?

Natural History of the short beaked echidna

body weight



throughout Australia

life span

up to 50 years

favourite food

termites & ants

breeding season


preferred shelter

hollow logs & rotting tree stumps


22-24 days

preferred temperature


number of eggs



temperature <12°C


10 days

hibernation length

6-28 weeks

puggle pouch life

45-55 days


dusk & dawn

emergence from burrow



solitary except 'trains'

The short beaked echidna is native to Australia and New Guinea (Indonesia and Papua New Guinea). It is the most widely distributed native Australian mammal. It can be found on all land habitats from tropical rainforest to desert and snowy mountains. Five subspecies of short beaked echidna have been described: T.a.acanthion from northern and inland Australia; T.a.aculeatus from eastern NSW, Victoria and southern Queensland; T.a.lawesii from New Guinea (Indonesia and Papua New Guinea); T.a.multiaculeatus from South Australia and T.a.sertosus from Tasmania. One distinguishing feature is the length and thickness of the hair coat. I found the echidnas at Healesville Sancturary to be bigger, fatter and much hairier than their cousins in the Northern Rivers.

The other type of echidna is the long beaked echidna, with three living species, the Sir David long beaked echidna (Zagoglossus attenboroughi) and western long beaked echidna (Zagoglossus bruinjii) which are found in Papua, Indonesia and the eastern long beaked echidna (Zagoglossus bruijni) which is found in the central mountains of New Guinea and the Foa mountains of Indonesia. Long beaked echidnas have all been declared critically endangered. Long beaked echidna were found in Australia until a hundred years or so ago. A research team from Murdoch University is looking for a hidden population of long beaked echidna in far north west Kimberley.

The short beaked echidna is solitary and seeks well camouflaged places to hide wherever it is rather than going back to fixed shelter sites. Hollow logs and rotting tree stumps are preferred sites for shelter and food. They are generally crepuscular (active at dusk and dawn) but are nocturnal (active at night) when environmental temperatures are high or diurnal (active during the day) in winter in south eastern Australia. Their preferred temperature range is 20-30°C. They may hibernate when environmental temperatures drop below 12°C. The hibernation period may last 6-28 weeks with brief periods of activity every 9-12 days. They live up to 50 years in captivity but many don't make it to full adulthood. They are described as living in the slow lane with a low basal metabolic rate, low body temperature, low energy expenditure, periods of torpor and hibernation, a long lactation and single young that are late maturing. You might see an echidna 'train' in the breeding season (June-September), which consists of a female and her suitors.

The short-beaked echidna is medium sized with a round stocky body and a furred coat with long spines covering its back and sides. It weighs up to 7kg and can be up to 40cm in length. Its head is relatively small and ends in a cylindrical snout. The eyes are small and the external ear opening appears as a large vertical slit. The limbs are highly adapted for digging and burrowing. The shoulder girdle is similar to a crocodile and includes 2 extra bones compared with other mammals. The forelimbs are short and strong with five digits and flattened claws for digging. The hindlimbs are less well developed than the forelimbs and the hindfeet point backwards. The echidna and platypus are monotremes. This means that they are mammals but they lay eggs and secrete milk from mammary glands onto paired hairy patches. A baby echidna is called a puggle and suckles milk from these hairy patches. Unlike the platypus, the female echidna has a shallow muscular pouch.

Short-beaked echidnas are myrmecophagous, this means that they eat termites and ants. They prefer termites and more defenseless ants such as larvae, pupae, queens and winged ants and avoid larger biting ants. They attack meat ant nests in late winter and early spring when virgin queens, which are higher in fat, move closer to the surface of the nest. They also eat other invertebrate larvae, especially scarab beetle larvae, adult beetles and earthworms. Their snout contains highly sensitive electroreceptors and mechanoreceptors that are used to detect and retrieve prey. Their tongue is covered in a coating of sticky saliva and moves very quickly to catch prey. Echidnas do not have teeth. Food is chewed using hard pads on their gums, base of tongue and roof of mouth. Echidnas can generally consume enough water from their food to not need to drink extra water.

Look out for our local short beaked echidnas especially when out driving on the road. We are currently seeing 1-2 short beaked echidna a week being brought in to Vitality Vetcare after being hit by a car.

Opening Hours

10am - 6pm Tue - Thur

Consultations by appointment only. A late appointment may be available on Thursday evenings

Late cancellation fees may apply


Emergencies: please call your referring general practice vet or

North Coast Emergency Vets, Ballina 0424 054 056 weekends & PH

Animal Emergency Service, Carrara, Gold Coast 07 5559 1599


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