Irwin’s Missing Thylacine Footage

Posted by: Loren Coleman on September 10th, 2006

Steve Irwin Devils Run Wild

The only known image of Steve Irwin from 2.07.

I’ve been challenged by critics that say Steve Irwin never looked for the Thylacine. Here’s more evidence that he did.

As I wrote early after Steve Irwin was killed by a stringray, he apparently devoted an episode of "The Crocodile Hunter" to his search for the Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger. There was furthermore a rumor that he might have captured an elusive, supposedly extinct Thylacine on videotape during the making of that episode. But, for whatever reason, the blurry footage was never broadcast. Or was it?

Irwin’s link to the Thylacine hunt was noted, sometimes with curiosity, during the week after his death on various sites based on my posting here at Cryptomundo. But my discussion of the Irwin-Tasmanian Tiger program has been also mentioned on other blogs with skepticism. One individual even wrote: "Update: I still have many people saying that this episode is a hoax."

It is no hoax.

I have tracked down, at least, exact information that there was indeed an episode of "The Crocodile Hunter" that partially focused on Irwin’s and his wife’s search for the Thylacine. Strangely, while you might think that more information on Irwin would be on the web than in the past, and I’m sure there is about many facets of his life, some of the data about Irwin is disappearing and gone missing.

In doing an in-depth search of cached sites, however, I discovered that this specific episode does show up in some now almost vanished lists and records. It was screened, apparently, as episode number seven of the second season, the 17th overall ever produced. It’s exact code is "2.07, Episode Number: 17."

In the cache of one site, I was able to find this episode description:

"Where The Devils Run Wild" Where the Devils Run Wild: Steve and Terri roam Tasmania among exotic wildlife including wombats, Tasmanian devils and copperhead snakes. Here, they search for the fabled Tasmanian tiger, considered extinct since the 1930s.

So the hunt is still on: Has anyone out there seen this episode? Can anyone find when it was first broadcast? Do you have a copy? Does it contain speculative footage about or on the Irwins’ possible sighting of a Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine)? Let us know here.


Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

36 Responses to “Irwin’s Missing Thylacine Footage”

  1. UKCryptid responds:

    I definately saw an episode called ‘Where the devils run wild’, i’m positive that I remember Steve mentioning the fact that Thylacines were POSSIBLY still alive and spoke of how he wished that it was definately so, but there was no footage of that nature to speak of. The main focus was indeed Tasmanian devils. I’m sure I would recall footage, blurry or otherwise of something like that. I am 100% sure on the episode being named just that though.

  2. UKCryptid responds:

    An extra to my last comment, it was shown on Discovery: Animal Planet

  3. monswine responds:

    Well I definitely remember seeing an episode on Animal Planet where Steve and Terri roamed through Tasmanian rainforests searching for ”tigers” but towards the end of the episode I became convinced they had been looking for a tiger snake.

  4. mauka responds:

    I have also seen the episode. When I was much younger. He did talk a fair deal about the tasmanian tiger.

  5. Dan responds:

    Sorry skeptics, this episode definitely aired. As I recall though their search turned up nothing.

  6. Sky King responds:

    Copperheads in Tasmania? Aren’t there enough of them east of the Mississippi as is? Thankfully, after moving to New Mexico, I don’t have to deal with them anymore. Just three species of rattlers. But I’m a townie. I wouldn’t go into the mountains unprepared.

    A rattler will warn you to stay away. Moccasins will just haul off and bite you and ENJOY IT.

  7. kittenz responds:

    I remember seeing the episode where Steve and Terri focused on the devils. And I remember them discussing the thylacine, but I don’t recall seeing any thylacine footage.

  8. UberKyle responds:

    No snake ‘ENJOYS’ wasting its time and energy seeking out and injecting a Non-threatening object with its precious venom.

    Now… if you were threatening said copperhead, than you’ve got yourself a different story, but its still far from enjoyment, its self-defense.

    Stop spreading your venom, and leave snakes be –

  9. traveler responds:

    now now i think that Sky King was just being funny. and by the way he was talking about moccasins, wich i happen to know will even chase a fellow if it gets good and mad at him.

  10. Trapster responds:

    Howdy folks,

    Confusion happening here over the “Australian copperhead (austrelaps superbus) and the “American copperhead” (agkistrodon contortrix). Quite different animals. All the Australian ones I’ve seen were black and reddish, almost looked like an “American Indigo snake”(drymarchon corais) with a smaller head.

    As to water moccasins chasing you. I deal with them weekly and never had one chase me (doesn’t mean it won’t happen tomorrow) however the common “banded water snake” (Nerodia fasciata) which is a non-venomous mimic of the moccasin are somtimes jumpy and nervous and will chase you if you really get them going, and then step back quickly.
    my two cents

  11. afigbee responds:

    I seem to remember at least two episodes about tasmanian devils. One focused on the horrible cancer that will probably wipe out the wild population and the other involved a devil at their zoo who ate something that disagreed with him and after he was revived and everyone turned their backs he went and ate it again. I don’t remember anything about a thylacine in either of them, but I would have seen them recently, however, so it might have been edited out of rebroadcasts.

  12. aspenparkland responds:

    I have a copy of the episode. In the intro, Terri says that they’re not convinced the Thylacine is extinct.

  13. charlie23 responds:

    I’ve seen this episode as well (Cable TV in Bulgaria basically only offers Animal Planet and Discovery in English language) though unfortunately my memory of it is somewhat foggy. I do remember them mentioning the Thylacine in the episode but as I recall it was more along the lines of noting its extinction as an ecological disaster rather than seriously proposing that it still exists. I’ve found only one website that lists it as “Where the Devils Run Wild”, however many sites list an episode entitled “Dancing with Devils” from The Crocodile Hunter Diaries. Could be that it was remixed and re-released as the second title?

  14. MrInspector responds:

    Actually it was episode 18, at least according to The first two episodes of the Croc Hunter were a Pt1 and Pt2. Could be were it got confusing. As far as the trip to Tasmania, here’s the detail.

    Dancing With Devils
    Episode Number: 18
    Season Num: 2
    First Aired: Wednesday April 9, 2003 on Animal Planet.

    And the link for any doubters.

    However, the episode certainly wasn’t dedicated to the hunt for the thylacine, and it took up only a small portion of the show between two commercial breaks as I recall. This could be why it got murky. (shrugs)

  15. Rabbit responds:

    On the Tiger Snakes.

    I used to live in the south of Western Australia and Tiger Snakes are plentiful down there. They are various colours and dark brown isn’t uncommon.

    I once saw a creature jump a track while on a motorcycle out in the Bush down there too. I am quite open to the possibility it was a Thylacine. There have been several sightings of apparent Thylacines down that way believe it or not, and at least one of these was by a very trustworthy witness. I know one person who claims to have been within a few meters of a Thylacine while in the Southwest Bush near where I saw something a few years later. At the time of my sighting I only noticed it was the weirdest looking Dog thing, but which leapt with a movement resembling a Big Cat. In fact my first impression was that it was a big Cat. By that I mean a BIG cat, the size of a Great Dane.

    I told the friend of this one time and he asked about the colour and then the time of year. Now it was not the usual colour which Thylacines are shown as, it was in fact a very pale colour, and stripes were not visible.

    The friend told me that a little known fact about Thylacine was that it changed colour due to molt each spring and was much paler with stripes not very visible at this time. It was in the late spring when I saw this thing.

    Now I am not sure about that colour change thing but if anyone can confirm that I’d be feeling quite confident it was a Thylacine. The way it moved was really quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen before or since. The odd cross between a Dog and Cat appearance has remained top of the impression I am left with ever since. Also the length of the leap, it completely cleared the track taking off from the bush one side and landing in the bush on the other. It was perhaps twenty meters in front of my Motorcycle. stopped and with the two friends who were following up behind we searched for tracks but the ground wasn’t conducive to impressions.

    This was also the same year as another person, the wife of a local councillor in a neighboring town, reported seeing what appeared to be a Thylacine by the side of the road during early morning while driving her car.

    Since this is Western Australia we are talking about, Thylacine is hardly the sort of thing people would be expecting, so whatever it was it had to look a lot like one for anyone to conclude this is what they had seen.

    OK. Now the rabbit has fullfilled a promise he once made on this site to tell of this thing. Hope it has been of interest.

  16. kittenz responds:

    That is an interesting story, rabbit.

    I viewed the thylacine film footage on the online museum website, and to me, although the animals superficially resemble a dog at first glance, I was astonished by their graceful catlike movements. They look nothing like dogs when they move (at least in the short films). Too bad nobody ever got footage of one running at speed.

  17. Maohk Kiaayo responds:

    Look Copperheads and Water Moccasins are two different snakes one is a reddish brown while the Cotton Mouth (Water Moccasin) is very dark brown and thrives near water. Also Cotton Mouths are bigger than copperheads.

  18. youcantryreachingme responds:

    Great info, rabbit… if you haven’t already, you should report the details to the Australian Rare Fauna Research Association, and it would be great if you could put dates to the sightings – even just years.

    I do know from various sources that thylacine sightings are considerably common for Western Australia.

    Then there was Kevin Cameron’s photographs from 1985. Most people agreed that they showed a thylacine and that most likely it was actually dead. (It’s head was never visible in the photos – plenty of photos – and the change in shadows indicated a long time frame between all the exposures).

    Speculation was that Cameron – or someone in his company – shot it, because one of the photos showed a shadow of what appeared to be a person’s hand holding a gun.

    Possibly because of the penalty for killing a thylacine, Cameron went quiet on the story and there doesn’t seem to be any more information about it.

    But the question remains – where in Western Australia did he find that thylacine in order to photograph it? I suppose it might have been a taxidermy, but then why the apparent gun in the photo?

    So at best, we have a 21 year old photo of a thylacine in WA. Either way, you won’t be the only person reporting sightings from there. The south-west of Western Australia in particular is known as a biodiversity hot spot of global significance. Who knows what lurks there?

  19. youcantryreachingme responds:

    Rabbit – I haven’t heard about colour change due to coat moulting, but I have read about thylacines being very agile jumpers.

    Col Bailey has probably collated the largest collection of the stories behind sightings of the thylacine. I’m sure he would be interested to hear the full story from you in an email or telephone call (follow the link in this comment).

  20. twblack responds:

    It is not a hoax I have seen every show and this was one of them.

  21. Rabbit responds:

    Thanks Yctrm and Kittenz, I’ll follow up on the links you give and place a report. I’m interested to hear that they moved like cats, because as I said despite looking more like a dog, it definitely struck me as a cat’s grace, and the leap was about 5-6 meters. (Running leap, not a standing start.)

  22. Chinagrrl responds:

    Rabbit–How fascinating that you have seen a thylacine! You said that you saw it in Australia, but didn’t give a date. What year did you see it?

    I hope that the thylacines that were released early in the 20th century in Australia are thriving and multiplying. Let’s hope that you saw one of their offspring, alive and doing well.


  23. cor2879 responds:

    I saw the episode when he searched for the Thylacine… I remember it well. I do not, however, remember him showing any kind of footage of any thylacines save the classic b&w footage of the famous last known thylacine in captivity.

  24. LiberalDem responds:

    Something I’ve never seen talked about: in the past, did anyone ever attempt to domesticate a thylacine? Aborigines apparently domesticated dingoes or dogs, so I wonder if an attempt to make a pet or working animal out of a thylacine would have been successful. They were reportedly very nervous animals, so they may not have been good candidates for domestication.

  25. monswine responds:

    Aborigines brought dogs with them from Asia. Dingoes are just feral dogs plus a couple thousand years of evolution. The dingoes drove thylacines off the mainland.

  26. youcantryreachingme responds:

    LiberalDern – yes – several people kept domesticated thylacines.

    A great book which addresses the topic is Robert Paddle’s “The Last Thylacine”.

    In it, he talks of a thylacine which was captured, put on a lead and forced to walk some distance (quarter mile or so), then, in apparent acceptance of the new dominance relationship, the animal fell into line and heeled behind its new master for several miles right into town and down the main street.

    In another story, one owner took one to a societal meeting (I don’t recall the type of society) and it lay down at its owners feet during the meeting.

    In other stories thylacines were kept on farms and fairly unanimously the owners reported that a thylacine would smell and/or hear a person coming onto the property several minutes before any of the farm dogs would detect the person.

    This last characteristic in particular would be what makes them so elusive in the wild if, in fact, they exist there today.

    Col Bailey (see my previous comments for a link to his site) has been collecting stories from pre-extinction trappers and post-extinction witnesses for thirty nine years. His book, Tiger Tales talks mentions some of the same, and other, stories.

    One involves a trapper who caught a thylacine in a snare and the animal was barely hurt. Eventually – and presumably it was breeding time – the owner realised this animal needed to return to the wild. He let it go. Two years later the same thylacine (“Lucy” from memory) sat waiting on one of his well worn trapping trails waiting for him (which is totally uncharacteristic of the animal), together with her two cubs.

    Man and beasts stared at each other for some time before the animal took her cubs off into the wild. That was the last thylacine that particular trapper saw.

    When people ask whether I’m a dog person or a cat person, I now answer “neither … I like thylacines”. As noted by rabbit, they seem to be a unique blend of both cat and dog behaviours, physiology and temperament.

  27. kittenz responds:

    From the accounts that I have read, thylacines were relatively easy to tame, and in captivity they appear to have interacted well with people.

    It would be a mistake to confuse “tamed” with “domesticated”, however. Many animals can be tamed, but only a few have been truly domesticated. A tame animal is one that will interact reasonably peacefully with people. It may have been caught wild and tamed, or born in captivity, but it is basically still a wild individual with modified behavior. A domesticated animal, on the other hand, is an animal belonging to a SPECIES that has been modified and propagated by humans, usually for a specific purpose or purposes.

    To the best of my knowledge, although individuals of many species of marsupials have been tamed at one time or another, no marsupials have ever actually been domesticated.

  28. mystery_man responds:

    It’s frustrating that this important footage was taken and yet it is so hard to pin down and take a look at. If the footage was good, why isn’t it being shown all over the place? I’m sure it is not a hoax, but if there was footage taken by none other than Steve Irwin, why is it so elusive? I really would like to know.

  29. youcantryreachingme responds:

    To the question of Irwin’s alleged footage… remember at this stage it’s a rumour. There is no doubt he created TV shows centered around Tasmanian fauna, but finding out exactly what he and Terri had to say about the thylacine is something we’d all love to learn!

    kittenz – thanks for the info on “tame” versus “domesticated”. Not sure from your description though, on what you feel makes “domesticated” different from tame. Either way, I’d suggest only a handful of thylacines were kept in captivity – far fewer if you discount the zoo specimens.


  30. kittenz responds:

    Domesticated animals have been selectively bred by humans to intensify such characteristics as docile behavior and trainability (among other traits). Domesticated animals are recognizably different from their wild counterparts, even when they can still interbreed successfully with the wild species.

    Wild animals can be tamed and tamed animals can act very much like domesticated animals, but they still retain wild instincts and behaviors that have not beem modified by selective breeding. Take tigers, for instance. Tigers breed successfully in captivity, and they can be taught to do many things that tigers do not do in the wild, but tigers, even if they have been captive-bred for 4 or 5 generations, are still wild animals, no matter how tame individuals may become. Perhaps in many, many more generations of intensively selective captive breeding, a domesticated tiger could be produced. Truly domesticating a species means selecting for desired traits through many generations.

    Dogs can interbreed with wolves and other wild canids, but dogs are still domesticated animals, and wolves and coyotes are not. Reindeer are domesticated; caribou are not.

    The same is true with other species. Elephants can be tamed to the point of being beasts of burden for decades of their lives, but they do not breed well in captivity and their basic wild instincts remain intact. Captive elephants kill many people every year. Wild animals of many species can be tamed, but for a species to be domesticated take many, many generations of human intervention through selective breeding for desired traits.

  31. Paranormal Magazine responds:

    Are you still looking for this footage? Because according to Google’s cache of the Animal Planet’s schedule, it aired in Australia on the 23rd.

  32. youcantryreachingme responds:

    Paranormal Magazine – why do I always find out, after it’s screened? 😀

  33. Paranormal Magazine responds:

    Check the schedule if you live in Australia. It’s airing several times this week including today and tomorrow.

    Don’t see it coming up in the U.S. listings, but here’s where you check.

  34. Snozzle responds:

    To Rabbit and friends:-

    A map of thylacine sighting hotspots in the Southwest of Western Australia can be found at this link on page 4 of the pdf file.

    You really need to compare it with a map showing vegetated areas versus cleared areas and creeks and streams (more on that later…). I guess you could use GoogleEarth, though.

    Places of interest on the map:

    1. Just east of Capel is “Tiger Gully”. Where settlers used to allegedly play with the little critters. Note that a huge base of bush knowledge was lost when the early cattlemen who ranged the Southwest bush on horseback volunteered and perished on the Battlefields of France in the Great War.
    2. The Whicher Ranges are those seven little X’s just East of Cowaramup. The ranges are still wooded, South and East of them are the Sunklands, a scrubby, swampy, hilly thylacine paradise. North of the Ranges is the Vasse – cleared pastureland. West is the Naturalist Ridge, but a cleared strip of farmland runs all the way down to Margaret River bounded by roads. Gullies and Creekbeds run out from the Whicher ranges to Vasse and past Cowaramup.

    Farmers routinely report stock losses to “wild dogs”. The creeks provide perfect access for both predation and migration between habitats.

    Personally, I believe that what you saw was a type of Thylacoleo – the Marsupial Lion, and that most Thylacine sightings down here are of Thylacoleo, but because Thylacines are so “popular”, that is what they are reported as being.

  35. monswine responds:

    It’s seems difficult to confuse the large powerful wombat build of thylacoleo witht the small lithe greyhounf-like build of a thylacine.

  36. youcantryreachingme responds:

    LiberalDem put the question – did anyone try and keep the thylacine as a pet?

    See my latest article: Tasmanian tigers as pets.

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