The puggle felt the sun’s warmth seeping down through the high canopy. He pulled himself out of the burrow ahead of his mother. His mother was digging through the dirt just behind him. The puggle turned and nosed in the fresh dirt, sensing an earthworm just below the surface. He reached towards it but his mother snatched it up first, sucking it up through her straw-like snout. She had nursed him at first, then had given him food, but no more. He could find his own food now.
The two moved along the edge of a fallen log, their snouts sweeping the ground for insects. A beetle scurried in front of the puggle and he sucked it up quickly. He was getting better at it.
They had just moved into a small clearing when barking erupted in front of them. The puggle had never heard such a sound but he moved instinctively, retreating back into the underbrush. The mother reacted instantly, burrowing down into the ground with her strong front claws, leaving only her spiny back exposed. The puggle moved to follow her but the barking shapes were moving quickly closer. They smelled dangerous.
The puggle backed up further and began to dig, creating a shallow pit for himself. The barking creature was just above him and a black nose pushed at him, prodding at his small spikes. He felt panting breath on his head and could make out yellow teeth just above his head. He froze, not able to move.
There was a call from the clearing. The creature gave an annoyed snort and then retreated, leaving the puggle trembling in his slight depression. He stayed like that for a few more minutes until the sound of the creatures had disappeared and the forest returned to quiet. He tried digging a little more and came across several worms, which he ate.
After a while, he remembered his mother and wondered where she was. He pulled himself out of his hole and waddled over to where he had seen her last. She was not there but he could tell by her scent that she was still somewhere nearby. He wandered around a little but did not find her. Then he found a small ant hill and for the next while he was busy sucking up the thin trail of ants that marched out the hole and scattered.
By the time, he remembered his mother again, the scent was not clear. Finally he picked it up and moved slowly still looking for food as he went.
Finally, he saw her just ahead. He approached her, but she turned and walked away. He thought at first she was leading him, but she made no attempt to let him catch up.
He stopped. The forest was silent and for the first time in his life he was totally alone. He found that he did feel distressed. Instead, he moved slowly back into the underbrush, scanning for worms and bugs. When the day became too hot, he found a shelter under a log just as she had always done. He was going to be okay. He was a puggle no longer.
Baby echidnas are called puggles. Echidnas are fascinating creatures that look like a cross between a hedgehog and an anteater. Like platypuses, they are mammals that lay eggs. They are very solitary creatures too. You can read more about them here.