I saw only stuffed museum specimens of the extinct Tasmanian tiger on my trip around Tasmania last December, but was fortunate to see the very unextinct Tasmanian tiger snake (Notechis scutatus) – in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park on the west coast.
The Tassie species is the same as occurs on the mainland. The Parks and Wildlife Service Tasmania has information about it. This one was just off the Heritage Landing rainforest boardwalk, trying to soak up some rays that were feebly filtering through the canopy. The nature guide said he often saw the snake around that area.
The paper “Body size and trophic divergence of two large sympatric elapid snakes (Notechis scutatus and Austrelaps superbus) (Serpentes: Elapidae) in Tasmania” by Simon Fearn and others describes a study of the eating habits of the tiger snake and the copper head (Austrelaps superbus) in Tasmania. The information in this paper is published in a more digestible form in the magazine, Tasmania 40 South, issue 68. The tiger snake eats frogs, eels, trout, wrens, native and introduced mice, rats, antechinus and even juvenile eastern barred bandicoots. One really large tiger contained the remains of a juvenile brush-tailed possum.
Tigers often have the scars from rat bites on their bodies – presumably the rats are fighting for their lives when attacked by the snake. Older snakes can be literally covered from head to foot with such scars.
Copperheads, with their smaller mouths, eat mainly smaller items, including the spotted marsh frog and the banjo frog, lizards and other snakes. They share habitat with the tigers, but specialise in smaller prey. This means both species can inhabit the same areas and survive happily without too much competition with each other.
The rainforest (World Heritage listed) is so atmospheric. Hooray for the conservationists who fought so long, hard and successfully to preserve it! You get a good idea of the lushness and biodiversity of the plants, fungi and animals even from the short walk allowed on the tour. It’s possible to take kayaking tours, too, or do your own serious bushwalking expedition.
Burrows of the Tasmanian giant freshwater crayfish (Astacopsis gouldi), the world’s largest freshwater invertebrate, were evident. The barrier islands off the coast of Georgia in the USA also have freshwater crayfish, and Professor Tony Martin has written about them here.
I’m no Peter Dombrovskis (check out some of his images here and here) or Olegas Truchanas (look here for some of his images), but the rainforest somehow calls out to be remembered so I took lots of shots. These men were two of Australia’s finest wilderness photographers. Having been there, I understand how they wanted to spend so much time in the Tasmanian wilderness, capturing the moment. Both died there on photography expeditions.