Olaf the puggle growing fast despite prickly start to life

SLURPING milk, sleeping and getting bigger by the day, Olaf the echidna is enjoying the good life.

A few weeks ago this cute baby echidna was accidentally dug up from his nursery burrow in Bangalow, but other than swapping a dark earthen hole for a plastic tub, his human carers have tried to keep his life basically the same.

That means plenty of milk and sleep for a baby in the middle of a growth spurt.

Chrisy Clay of Northern Rivers Wildlife Carers said it's not often that echidnas of Olaf's age find their way into human care.

Ten things you might not have known about echidnas

"They're tucked away safely into burrows and the only time we get this size and aged animal come in are when they're dug up," she said.

Baby echidnas are put into nursery burrows by their mothers at about three months, when they become too heavy for their mum to carry.

She leaves them hidden in the dark to sleep and grow and returns every three days to provide a feed.

"He's a hungry, hungry little boy. He will sit there and guzzle an amazing amount of milk," Ms Clay said.

She is hand-rearing Olaf on her Wardell property, where he lives in temporary digs in a plastic box in her spare bedroom.

"He's quite large for his age, he's three times what you would consider normal sized," she said.

He's not a quiet feeder, either.

"When they drink it's not a licking motion, it's a slurping motion and the noise can be really loud - if someone was drinking their milkshake like that you would look at them," Ms Clay said.

The noisy habit has inspired the household to take videos of the hungry creature on a feeding bender.

"Afterwards he just drops off to sleep again," Ms Clay said.

"He's just a big lump that likes to eat and sleep.

"It's all perfectly natural."

To satiate Olaf's appetite, the carers import a high-fat echidna milk manufactured by a specialist animal supplements producer in South Australia.

Olaf is expected to remain in care for another three to four months before he's released back into the wild.

A recent visit to echidna specialist Dr Michael Pyne at the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital for a full check-up returned a thumbs-up.

He has also had check-ups from Lismore Keen St vet Dr Ray Austin, which Ms Clay was most thankful for.

Northern Rivers Wildlife carer Chrisy Clay with Olaf the puggle (baby echidna).
Northern Rivers Wildlife carer Chrisy Clay with Olaf the puggle (baby echidna). Cathy Adams

Ten things you might not have known about echidnas

  1. Puggles are born blind and hairless.
  2. Baby echidnas feed on pink milk. It is pink because of the high iron content. Olaf's milk is imported from South Australia.
  3. The ancestors of echidnas roamed the planet with dinosaurs. The oldest monotreme fossil found is about 110 million years old and it is thought echidnas diverged from platypuses anywhere between 17 million and 89 million years ago.
  4. Puggles are the name given to baby monotremes, which means baby platypus (the world's only other species of monotreme) are also called puggles.
  5. Echidnas have no teeth. They use their long sticky tongue to capture small insects.
  6. Echidnas have been known to live for up to 50 years.
  7. Echidnas' spines are formed from a single hair.
  8. An echidna can lift objects twice its weight.
  9. Echidnas are (unfairly) named after the ancient Greek goddess Echidna, who was half woman and half snake and was known as the "Mother of Monsters".
  10. Echidnas can swim.


Topics:  echidnas editors picks northern rivers wildlife carers

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