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Byron Shire
August 17, 2022

Volunteers rescue ‘first puggle of the season’

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This puggle is called ‘Little Damian’ and was rescued after a hit and run in Goonellabah.

Wildlife rescue volunteers on the Northern Rivers are hoping ‘Little Damian’, an orphaned puggle, will survive after a car hit him in Gonnellabah Saturday night.

WIRES spokeswoman Renata Phelps told Echonetdailya Northern Rivers man was driving along High Street when he saw an echidna on the road.

On closer inspection, the driver realised the echidna was dead but had something moving on her stomach: a baby echidna, known as a puggle.

After calling the WIRES 24-hour hotline for help, the man, identified simply as ‘Damian’, took the dead echidna and her puggle to WIRES volunteer Leoni Byron-Jackson, who was able to safely remove it alive from the mother’s pouch.

WIRES volunteers have called the puggle ‘Little Damian’ after his human rescuer.

They say Little Damian’s eyes are not yet open, his spines are yet to develop and he weighs a tiny 67 grams.

Little Damian is comfortable and is eating special puggle formula-milk but his long-term survival is uncertain.

Critters like this loveable little echidna ‘puggle’ are regularly rescued by Northern Rivers Wildlife Carers. Photo Perth Zoo

It’s a pug(gle)-life

July and August are generally known as breeding time for echidnas.

Female echidnas lay a soft-shelled egg between 10 and 36 days after mating, by lying on their backs and letting it roll down their stomachs straight into their ‘pouches’.

But female echidnas don’t have permanent pouches; instead they have contracting muscles in their abdomens, which create a pouch-like fold.

After 10½ days the puggle taps on the inside of the egg with what is called an egg tooth to break the shell.

Echidnas only ever have the one tooth, and the egg tooth falls out one or two days after the puggles hatch.

Once hatched, puggles stay in their mothers’ ‘pouches’ for 50 days while the mothers dig special nursery burrows ready for children with growing spines.

Mothers then leave puggles in their nurseries, returning every 5 or 6 days with food, secreted through mammary pores as a milk.

Check for puggles!

Ms Phelps says for the next two months, female echidnas may be carrying either an egg or a very small puggle in their ‘pouches’.

She says if you find an injured echidna to please stop and check for a puggle – sometimes it may have rolled away, so look out for something that looks similar to a golf ball.

But if the puggle is still in mum’s ‘pouch’, wildlife rescuers ask you not to remove it but to take both adult and baby echidna to emergency responders.

The WIRES emergency hotline is 02 66281898. You can also call this number to find out about volunteering for the service.

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