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What do Tasmanian Devils Eat?

With the arrival of four Tasmanian devils at the ABQ BioPark Zoo in December 2013, the question invariably arises as to what they eat. What you probably know is that they are nocturnal marsupials, meaning they hunt for food at night and carry their young in pouches. Only found on the island state of Tasmania, their habitat once extended to the mainland of Australia about 500 years ago.

Tasmanian Devil from Tasmania
Karin Leperi

Because they are not good hunters, their diet is similar to that of hyenas: They scavenge whatever they can find. When the pickings are slim, they are known to eat bird eggs, and whatever else they can find. Usual prey includes small kangaroos, possums, birds, reptiles and amphibians with insects thrown in for good measure. Tasmanian farmers are fond of their Devils because they help keep agricultural fields free of rats and mice.

The Devils have powerful jaws and razor-sharp teeth that help them guttle their prey, consuming everything from fur, skin, meat, and bones to innards. Nothing is left to waste. Maybe that is why they are sometimes referred to as the 'vacuum cleaners' of the forests.

According to Mammal Department Supervisor Shelly Dicks at the Albuquerque zoo, the diet should represent what they are used to finding in the wild. As a result, Dicks says, "We feed them whole rats, whole chickens, quail, and ground horse meat. Whole carcass feeding is planned for the future."

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