Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wombat combat

Story on the news today about a man in Victoria who was attacked by a wombat and so badly hurt that he had to be taken to hospital. It's hard to believe, but apparently he trod on it in the dark outside his caravan, and it not only retaliated, but carried on mauling him for 20 minutes until he was rescued by a neighbour with an axe.

Now I've seen lots of wombats, I'm pleased to say: some in zoos, some like this one at Bonarong Park near Hobart, and many wild ones in north-east Tasmania - some of them alive. Tasmania's the most amazing place for road-kill, unfortunately: but it does make driving interesting. The First-Born and I went out with Craig, of Pepperbush Adventures for an evening bbq and lots of wild-life spotting:

>>> Though the driving is fun (mainland Aussies come for the novelty of turning corners), the roads good and the scenery beautiful, road kill is an under-advertised attraction of touring holidays in the state. A dismal fact of any car trip, in New Zealand the chief interest is in whether the next ex-possum will be round or flat. In Tassie, the next victim may be an improbable-sounding quoll or a bettong, a bandicoot, wombat or even a Tasmanian devil.

Craig, of course, prefers his wildlife three-dimensional. The son and grandson of bush rangers, he caught his first snake when he was five (simultaneously with a flea in the ear from his unimpressed mother) and is comfortable with Crocodile Dundee comparisons, although he has long been contemptuous of Steve Irwin. ‘He interferes with the animals,’ he explained, clearly categorising him with Michael Jackson even before Irwin’s own notorious baby-dangling episode. ‘He sets a bad example.’ For Craig, the thing is to show his clients wildlife in its natural surroundings, behaving naturally – apart, that is, from the selected individuals thrown onto the barbecue in a dusting of bush spices and served with pepper berry and crab apple wine sauce.

Most Australian creatures are nocturnal, so there was ample time to loll by the campfire sipping a crisp Ninth Island chardonnay as Craig packed away the picnic and the surrounding hills became silhouettes against the fading glow of the sunset. When the stars began to prick out their patterns in the velvety black of the sky, we bundled back into the 4WD and set off on our safari.

In Craig’s secret valley, it was ridiculously easy to spot the animals. Quolls, a type of spotted marsupial cat found only in Tasmania, had already been bounding through the long grass hunting moths and other insects as we sat by the fire, and we saw dozens more, their eyes reflecting bright green in the headlights. Swerving this way and that across the grassy valley bottom, we counted scores of wallabies and pademelons, dozens of possums, a handful of kangaroos, several bandicoots and, marvellously, over thirty wombats, or ‘ground bears’, trundling imperturbably about their business...

[Pub. Sunday Star-Times 18/1/04]

And the wombats were the cutest of all - bulky, certainly, and you really wouldn't want to drive into one, but so furry and sweet and unthreatening. I saw one up close at Cradle Mountain Lodge in Tasmania on another visit: he was calmly chewing at the wiry grass only metres away as I walked through the grounds. I crouched down and watched as he worked his way towards me, apparently quite undisturbed by my presence. At last he was right alongside, still chewing busily, and I couldn’t resist reaching out and touching his soft thick fur. He scuttled off at once, of course, but it had been an Attenborough moment.

I didn't realise I had been lucky to escape with my life...

4 comments:

The Guy's Perspective said...

That Wombat must really have been a night squirrel in disguise.

Pam said...

Welcome, Guy! (That was to have been my name if I'd been born a boy. Da da da da - sudden glimpse of an alternate existence there.) This would have to be a truly bulked-up night squirrel...

Bali Villa Holidays said...

That's an interesting story but Am not really familiar with wombat. In fact, there are a lot of furry animals in New Zealand I don't know yet.

Pam said...

Welcome, Bali! I'm sorry I've misled you: that story was about Victoria in Australia. We have no native furry animals here in NZ - though lots of introduced species we'd prefer to be without. Have a look at this post: http://travelskite.blogspot.com/2009/12/interlopers.html

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