Spotted-tailed Quoll. Photo by Don Fletcher
The carnivorous Spotted-tailed Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) is one of the ACT’s most threatened mammals. Since the 1950s there have been only 29 confirmed sightings of the marsupials—live or dead—and a further 32 records of hair, scats or DNA.
As a ‘top order’ predator and the largest carnivorous marsupial on mainland Australia, the Spotted-tailed Quoll has an important role to play in the environment. It is important we provide suitable conditions for quolls to persist in the ACT, by protecting their habitat and managing threats to the species. Surveys and supporting research will help us better understand and protect the species.
The Spotted-tailed Quoll was declared a vulnerable species in the ACT in 2003, and is also listed as endangered, vulnerable or threatened by the Australian, New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian and Queensland governments. Internationally, it is listed as near threatened.
Also known as the Tiger Quoll, Tiger Cat and Spotted-tailed Native Cat, this cat-sized quoll is the largest quoll species and the largest marsupial carnivore on mainland Australia. Found from southern Queensland through to south-western Victoria and Tasmania, it preys on medium-sized mammals (such as possums, gliders and rabbits), small mammals, birds, reptiles, invertebrates and even domestic poultry. It’s also known to scavenge on carrion.
The Spotted-tailed Quoll lives in a broad range of habitats and makes its den in rock crevices, hollow logs and trees, windrows, clumps of vegetation, caves and boulder tumbles, under buildings and underground burrows, including those of rabbits and wombats. Animals may have up to 20 dens they move between.
Males can range over several thousand hectares, which may explain why some are seen in urban Canberra. Females have smaller ranges and are philopatric—tending to return to or remain near a particular site or area—which may be one reason the population does not appear to be spreading to ACT nature reserves from strongholds in Kosciuszko National Park.
The national quoll population has declined up to 90% since European settlement, with populations becoming fragmented and isolated.
Numbers significantly declined following the introduction of strychnine baiting in the Canberra district in 1861. Today their greatest threats include destruction of habitat, fire, competition and predation from introduced carnivores and road mortality.
Research has shown the quolls need large patches of forest with adequate denning resources and relatively high densities of hollow-bearing trees, fallen timber, and medium-sized mammalian prey. While the former exists within Namadgi National Park, it is possible that competition for prey, particularly by foxes, could be another reason the quoll population is not growing.
Spotted-tailed Quolls are incredibly rare in the ACT, but those that may be living here unnoticed are already largely protected because much of their potential habitat is managed for wildlife conservation, for example in Namadgi National Park.
To help further protect the quolls and encourage new populations, we need to find out more about this important ‘top level’ predator. Ecologists have set up camera ‘traps’ at potential sites of quoll activity. Another way to detect the species is to survey possible latrine sites to find scats.
While some members of the public report urban sightings of quolls, more are encouraged to do so.
The ACT Government has prepared an action plan that aims to maintain, in the long-term, suitable habitat conditions that will support wild populations of quolls in the ACT by preserving their habitat, managing any threats to them, learning more about them and contributing to their regional and national conservation.
Conservation actions include:
- maintain habitat complexity and forested links that help quolls survive and travel
- undertake pest animal baiting programs and planned burns in a way that minimises risk to quolls
- survey, monitor and research to find out more about the marsupials
- increase public awareness and encourage the public to report sightings
- work with neighbouring jurisdictions to improve research and management.
- Spotted-tailed Quoll Action Plan 2018
- National Recovery Plan for the Spotted-tailed Quoll
- Draft action plan for the Spotted-tailed Quoll
- Australian Government environment protection and biodiversity conservation website
- Plans of management for relevant nature reserves in the ACT
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