Montana Wolf

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Mystery Never Goes Extinct:Tasmania Blog Six

Tasmanian Tiger, the marsupial that looks like a dog.
Marsupials don’t have a placenta, so they are born in a pouch, premature. 

I rose before sunrise in search of the thus-far-elusive Tasmanian Devil. I was beginning to think I'd come halfway around the world and might not not see one. Once plentiful and considered a nuisance, the fatal Devil Facial Tumor Disease had infected 75% of the wild population and a cure eluded the scientists. Traffic killed many more: Devils were run down in the night when they fed on wallaby and possum roadkill. Alas, I saw no Devils as we departed Bay of Fires and headed inland, pointed toward the western coast. The signs along the road, however, yielded hope.



Tasmanian Devil


Trout Rock 
The first half of inland Tas was beautiful and serene, a contrast from the touristy, raucous coast. Community bursts of personality were fun, like  this mural of a trout painted upon a huge rock along the Ringarooma River; fruit and vegetable stands dotted the road. We stopped in Launceston for lunch and realized we had tired of fish and chips when we decided on "Burger Got Soul" that advertised "lean, preservative-free meat." Hmmmm, the texture was soft and grainy and it was pretty tasteless. No country does burgers like the US.

Continuing west we began to skirt Walls of Jerusalem and Mole Creek Karst National Parks, popular starting points for extended bush
walks (long backpacking ventures). We were negotiating high curves when we suddenly saw a small brown animal with large white spots along the side of the highway. A quoll! said Greg. It wasn't even on my radar. Declared extinct on mainland Australia, here was the little marsupial, about the size of a house cat. We pulled over and I jumped out with my camera for a few more looks before it disappeared into the forest. Shy and nocturnal, even a zoo would not top my rare, daylight look. I managed this shot later in a nocturnal exhibit to help me remember the miraculous day I witnessed the spotted one.

This interpretive sign needs a little work! 

We were running out of steam, cranky and closing in on Mole Creek. Positioned half way across Tasmania, the Lonely Planet Guide mentioned it for possible platypus sightings. We entered the small village as I remembered the "behind the Pub" rule we'd discovered in Triabunna. We pulled over at the Tassie Tiger Pub and I walked around the back. Voila! A grassy, shady and quiet unadvertised dry camp. And empty. We checked with the pub owner who said there wasn't a charge as long as we ate at the Pub. We were in for the best lamb pie we'd ever tasted. Okay. The ONLY one for me. Fresh, flaky and richly mild to the palate, made on the premises, of course. I struck up a conversation with three of the pubbies (my word, it just fit!) sitting at the end of the bar. Old-time, beer-bellied locals happy to chatter and share their tales. They had lived their lives in the area; I eventually asked them about platypus. After explaining there used to be one in the creek behind the bar, they directed me a few miles down the road where I was likely to see them. I rounded up Greg and off we went, but not before I bought a Tassie Tiger Bar baseball cap. Make that two, said Greg.

The directions didn't add up and we found ourselves wandering along a small river by a packed RV Park. My bad: I had a hard time deciphering the thick Tassie accent. We were walking along the road, confounded, when along came a pubbie in his pickup. Wrong bridge, he said: we had turned too soon and  had several miles to go. We found the bridge, parked and headed down to the river. Greg knew what to look for: the give-away bubbles, soft movement of the water, and hopefully the eventual, surfacing Duck-billed Platypus. We waited. And waited. They are extremely shy; one must sit very still. I glassed the riverbanks looking for a burrow. No luck. Any sighting would come when they surfaced from feeding on crustaceans, worms and tadpoles. Twilight set in. Then there it was! - the flat tail, the beaver-like body and the head with a long bill. We saw at least four adults and a young one. Not to mention a stunning parrot along the shore. From this day forward we searched for platypus every time we hiked along a fresh water river or stream. We never saw another.

Green Rosellas - WOW.  Belong here, not a cage

Left to right: tail, body, head and eye, and their uber-sensitive bill

We awoke fresh and returned to the historic bar and hotel to view the displays. It was no accident that we'd wandered into ground zero for Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine) sightings. Greg had been determined to see one from the outset of the trip. In fact, he was certain he had seen one years ago on the mainland at night as he drove. A nocturnal, striped dog-like predator, it was once widespread in Tasmania and Australia. The bar brimmed with images and articles of the mysterious one, declared extinct in 1986. Since the declaration, many around Mole Creek claimed to have seen one in the mountains. The Australian desire was so great for its return that scientists had attempted to extract DNA in order to clone the species.

Alas, we never saw one, but the mystery, the local characters and the landscape that enveloped us made us wish we could stay longer. The place was enchanted. Tiger, tiger still burned bright.

my prized cap

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