If you’re a fan of old Bugs Bunny cartoons, you’re probably familiar with the Tasmanian devil. Did you realize the cartoon character is based on a real animal, though? It’s true. Tasmanian devils are real creatures that live in the wild on the island state of Tasmania in Australia.
If you’ve ever seen the cartoon Tasmanian devil, you know it’s a whirling, snarling, ferocious creature. In reality, Tasmanian devils aren’t much different! About the size of small dogs, Tasmanian devils are the largest carnivorous (meat-eating) marsupials in the world.
Tasmanian devils are notorious for being cranky. If they feel threatened by a predator or believe they need to defend their food, they will often fly into a ferocious rage. Early settlers of Tasmania who witnessed these animals screeching, growling and baring their teeth gave them the name “devil.”
Although they can be quite fierce, Tasmanian devils usually don’t attack human beings. They will defend themselves if they feel threatened, but they prefer to run away rather than stay and fight.
Tasmanian devils are solid and muscular with brown or black fur and a unique, strong smell. They will eat just about any type of meat, including prey animals and the carcasses of dead animals. And when they eat, they eat everything — including hair, organs and even bones!
Although it may sound kind of gross, Tasmanian devils provide a useful service by eating sick and dead animals. By doing so, they help prevent diseases from spreading and keep populations of certain species in check.
Tasmanian devils have large heads and necks, which make them look a bit like small bears and give them one of the strongest bites of any mammal on Earth. They tend to live alone and are nocturnal, only venturing out at night to hunt for food.
Despite their stocky appearance, Tasmanian devils can run long distances with surprising speed. They can also climb trees and swim across rivers.
Although there used to be many Tasmanian devils throughout Australia, they can now only be found on the island state of Tasmania. As of 2008, they now are considered endangered. In the past 20 years, a rare contagious cancer — called devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD) — has killed tens of thousands of Tasmanian devils.