Tasmanian devils falls prey to motorists

by Paul Jay, CBC News online

To a generation of North Americans who grew up watching Bugs Bunny, the Tasmanian devil was an indestructable whirlwind of destruction. But the eponymous marsupial upon which the character is based is far more vulnerable, according to the Australian province's government.

The latest threat to the vulnerable species? According to a story on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation website, 1,700 Tasmanian devils die each year on the state's roads.

As if things weren't bad enough, Tasmanian devils also apparently suffer from the awful-sounding Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease. The fatal disease evidently first appeared 11 years ago in the northeast portion of the island state and has been moving southwest.

The devils are particularly vulnerable, said Dr. Clare Hawkins, in part because they prefer to travel down the beaten path.

"And they seem to take the easy road like the rest of us, so they do tend to use roads for travelling as well as for picking up road-kills," Hawkins told ABC.

So much for the enduring image of a Tasmanian devil burrowing through trees and mountains on his way to food. In the real world, Taz would have taken the open highway.