THEY can be a bit prickly at times but they are also cute.
The echidna, sometimes known as the spiny anteater, belongs to the family Tachyglossidae in the monotreme order of egg-laying mammals.
They are out and about in greater numbers at the moment as it is breeding season.
Unfortunately, it appears that the heightened urge to find a mate is also proving to be the animal’s downfall, with reports of a number of the animals being hit by vehicles.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service has urged local residents and in particular motorists to be aware of the little monotremes as they undertake their journeys.
Vincentia resident Elizabeth Beasley had a surprise visit from one such animal into her Waldegrave Crescent garden on Tuesday.
“This little fellow ventured into our yard and made his way up the street going from one yard to the next,” she said.
“He was incredible to watch – I spent about an hour just watching him.
“And he was pretty calm about me watching and photographing him, he just went about his business.
“He did have a lovely face.”
She said it was a nice change to see a living echidna, as unfortunately over the past few weeks the only ones she had seen were on the side of the road “feet up”.
“Recently coming back from Bega on holidays we saw lots of them,” she said.
“And there were many of them – more than I have ever seen.
“Apparently it is their mating season and they are more active at this time of year.
“Therefore they are more likely to be out and about and going head to head with cars.”
She said it was incredible to see one of these animals in the wild.
“My husband and I are not long back from a holiday in Tasmania where we went to the Platypus House at Beauty Point in Launceston,” she said.
“As well as platypuses they also had echidnas and we learnt some cool information about them.”
Like the platypus, echidnas are rare monotremes, or egg-laying mammals.
While the echidna looks fearsome enough, it is actually a shy animal and would rather retreat than fight if disturbed.
When frightened it will curl into a ball, with its snout and legs tucked beneath it and its sharp spines sticking out.
For most of the year echidnas are solitary animals, although each animal’s territory is large and often overlaps with that of other echidnas.
During the breeding season (anywhere from the end of June through to September and sometimes beyond) they use their fine sense of smell to locate one another.
Echidnas produce young from eggs which are hatched outside their body, in the same way as birds and most reptiles.
During the breeding season, a female echidna develops a simple pouch into which she lays a single egg.
The egg takes about 10 days to hatch, producing a young animal which measures around 1.45cm (about the size of a jellybean) and weighs as little as 380 milligrams.
The young echidna is carried around in its mother’s pouch for about three months, during which the female will sometimes drop it into a burrow for protection.
By the time the infant leaves the pouch, its spines have started to develop, but it still stays close to its mother and continues to suckle milk through specialised pores in the skin inside her pouch.
Although they begin to eat termites and ants soon after leaving the pouch, young echidnas are often not fully weaned until they are several months old.
Echidnas have been known to live for as long as 16 years in the wild, but generally their life span is thought to be under 10 years.