Yes, the Tasmanian Devil does exist.
In fact, there is not simply one Tasmanian Devil, but many of them scattered throughout Tasmania. The devil is nocturnal and was named by early European settlers because of its eerie growl, which starts as a kind of whistle and ends in a bark.
Devils grow up to 2 feet (60 cm) in length excluding tail, and are known for their foul tempers. They generally scavenge on dead animals of all kinds, but may eat other small mammals or reptiles. Tasmanian Devils have some of the strongest jaws of any animal, and generally eat the entirety of their prey. One time a family of Devils were found to have eaten a horse and left only the skull and tail.
While the real devil may sound a little like the cartoon version, be assured that they walk on all four legs and do not spin around like a tornado (they're just a bit slower)!
Tasmanian Devils are currently being afflicted by a facial tumour disease that has decimated their numbers. The situation has reached a point where devils have been listed as a threatened species, and funding of over A$1 million is being devoted to finding a cure. The current theory is that the disease is spread by biting.
Last reviewed 2006-08-05 17:39:54