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Australian mammal viewing is easier in Tasmania than most other bits of Australia: only some of the Western Shield reserves of south-west Western Australia and Kangaroo Island rank alongside it in my opinion. The highways are peppered with a variety of road-kill - a friend once said that the best way to see Tasmanian wildlife was from a glass-bottomed bus. This abundance of mammals is largely due to the absence of Red Foxes (which, not so strangely enough, are also absent from Kangaroo Island and the Western Shield reserves). But this appears to be changing: there is considerable evidence that Foxes were deliberately introduced into Tasmania after 2000. And though some argue that there is not conclusive proof that foxes have become established, there have been several fox scats, tracks and bodies found. This is certainly a good deal of concern among Tasmanians and their government (the Department of Primary Industries and Water maintain a website on fox sightings.
I’ve visited Tasmania several times but only twice for mammal watching. Once over Christmas 2000, and again in March 2001. Many consider Tasmania to be Australia’s most beautiful state. Places like Cradle Mountain are indeed spectacular, though in a European sort of a way (albeit with cleaner air, cleaner water and cheaper petrol).
Hobart - the Waterworks Reserve in Hobart is a good place to look for Tasmanian Bettongs, quite a tricky species to see elsewhere in the State. There are possum, pademelons and probably other stuff here too though I have never been. In December 2008, I heard that Eastern Barred Bandicoots were also here, though the visitors didn't find Bettongs (but had seen them in August).
Mount Field is just a couple of hours drive from Hobart, and is a good spot to see a range of mammals. I saw two Eastern Barred Bandicoots, which seem to be rather uncommon in Tasmania (both were just outside the park after sunset – one was running over the bridge into the park). Eastern Quolls (both colour phases) were quite common and approachable in the Campsite. Tasmanian Pademelons were abundant near the campsite at dusk. Other mammals there included Common Brushtail Possums, a Southern Brown Bandicoot, Echidnas and a Wombat (in the middle of the day). Long-tailed Mice (Psuedomys higginsi), endemic to Tasmania, are present and supposedly quite numerous in scree slopes, but I didn’t see any.
The road that leads from Mt Field to Lake Pedder cuts into the great wilderness of the south west. Driving it at night produced Eastern Quolls, Tasmanian Devils and Possums.
Cradle Mountain is worth visiting for the scenery alone. But there are also good mammals. Cradle Mountain Lodge, in particular, is worth a visit even if you cannot afford to stay there. It had a resident family of Tasmanian Devils living underneath: they emerged on cue each dusk. The mosaic of ponds and streams in the hotel grounds are worth checking out too: I had my best ever view of a Platypus here while I was spotlighting one evening as it swam right underneath me and the little footbridge on which I was standing. Driving from the lodge up to Dove Lake is a good spotlighting route: Eastern Quolls, Tasmanian Pademelons and Wombats were all quite common.
Birdwatchers know the Forest Glen Tea Gardens as a good spot for some nice species including Swift Parrots. Long-nosed Potoroos are common there, and quite easy to see if you walk quietly and listen for their rustlings early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
Coles Bay, on the south east coast has Bennet’s Wallabies (a subspecies of Red-necked Wallaby). I saw my first Tasmanian Devil here.
The north-east of Tasmania, around the Bridport area in particular, has some of the State’s best mammal watching. I spent a long evening around the small town of Scottsdale looking for animals with Craig Williams, a local tour operator. We saw several Eastern Quolls, many Pademelons, Eastern Barred Bandicoots and of course Possums and Echidnas. But I didn’t see either of the two species I was chasing – Tasmanian Bettongs and Tiger (Spotted-tailed) Quolls. Both are reputed to be around in quite good numbers. So I carried on looking on my own and eventually saw a Tiger Quoll on the C832 and soon after found a colony of Tasmanian Bettongs living in a paddock at the side of that road (their short muzzles give the Bettongs a really quite distinctive, sort of mouse like appearance, when compared to the more kangaroo-like Pademelons).
Tasmania has to be the best place in Australia to see Leopard Seals. Juvenile vagrant Leopard Seals regularly haul out in Tasmania during August-November, although I am not sure that they can be guaranteed anywhere (if they could have been I would have gone). They can crop up anywhere. I was once in Hobart for work and the evening news reported one at the city’s shipyards. I spent several cold hours walking around the docks that night. No seal. The next morning, when I read the story in the paper and got the correct name, the Hobart slip-yards were already seal-less. But some seals stay for several weeks.
Other People's Trip Reports
Western Australia, Alice Springs & Tasmania (2008): Don Roberson, 2 weeks and 18 mammals.
Around the World (Australia), 2004: Richard Webb, 6 weeks.