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MAMMALS
Bridled nailtail wallaby
Brush-tailed rock wallaby
Flying foxes
Gliders
Koala
Northern hairy-nosed wombat
Platypus
Short-beaked echidna
Spotted-tailed quoll
Northern quoll
Water mouse
Whiptail wallaby
NORTHERN QUOLL

Northern quoll
Photo © Eric Vanderduys

(Dasyurus hallucatus)

Also called the northern Australian native cat, northern native cat, satanellus, and njanmak (Mayali)

Introduction

The northern quoll is the smallest of four species of marsupial carnivore in the genus Dasyurus. The species was first described in 1842 and given the species name hallucatus, which means ‘notable first digit’. This refers to the short ‘thumb’ on the hindfoot, which aids in gripping and climbing.

Although they are the smallest of all quolls, they are the most aggressive.

North Queensland is the only place in Australia where the northern quoll and spotted-tailed quoll are confirmed to occur side-by-side.

The northern quoll previously occurred across most of the northern third of Australia, but its range has declined significantly (see Distribution)

Description

  • Coat is grey to brown with distinctive white spots. No spots on tail
  • 5 toes on hind foot, short hind foot (< 57mm), ridged pads on sole of foot are a distinguishing feature
  • Body length 25­–37cm; tail length 20–35cm (usually less than 50cm total from nose to tail tip)
  • Weight 240–1120g (usually less than 1kg)
  • Males are larger than females

Northern quoll scat – twisted and pointed at one end

Signs

  • Scats
    • on conspicuous high places on rock piles or boulders, and at den entrances
    • usually twisted and pointed at one end
    • contain fragments of insects, bones, fur and feathers
    • small, approximately 10mm x 30mm
  • Tracks
    • Hard to see in rocky and forested terrain that is the common habitat.
    • Tracks can be seen in sand

Habitat

  • Rocky areas are prime habitat for northern quolls.
  • Broad range of dry sclerophyll and dry vine thickets also provide suitable habitat.
  • Daytime den sites include rocky outcrops, rock piles, caves, tree hollows, hollow logs, termite mounds, goanna burrows, wood piles and in human dwellings including ceilings, wall cavities and even inside couches.

Ecology

Life history

Most northern quoll males die at the age of about 12 months, after the short, synchronised breeding period (this species is the largest animal to be semelparous – the males reproduce only once, usually followed by death. Fewer than 30% of females survive into their 2nd year.


Northern Quolls
Photo © Michael Snedic

Breeding

  • Northern quolls breed once year; late July–late August (in Queensland)
  • Up to 8 young born at a time that begin dispersing during November and December
  • Timing of reproduction, although semelparous, varies between sites and years

Food

  • Opportunistic predators and scavengers on a range of food including fleshy fruit (figs, native grapes), insects and other invertebrates, amphibians, small reptiles, small birds and rodents, and carrion.
  • Has been known to eat biscuits from pet bowls, and even eat avocados from fruit bowls

Home range

  • Territorial and solitary
  • Capable of long-range movements in relatively short periods.
  • Home ranges average around 35ha for both sexes during the non-breeding season. The males’ home range may increase to more than 100ha during the breeding period

Northern Quoll Distribution

Distribution

  • In Queensland, found from about Cooktown to Rockhampton with core populations in rocky and/or high rainfall areas.
  • Northern quolls also occur on a number of offshore islands in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Threats

(In order of how serious the threat is.)

  1. Poisoned by eating cane toads – cane toads now occur throughout all of the quoll’s distribution in Queensland and are spreading westwards across the north of Australia.
  2. Predation and competition from feral predators
  3. Inappropriate fire regimes that alter habitat and cover
  4. Habitat loss
  5. Habitat degradation by trampling and grazing
  6. Weeds disadvantage quolls because they inhibit movements and hunting, and foster inappropriate fire regimes
  7. Road deaths
  8. Isolation makes populations more vulnerable to disease and local extinction (particularly given the males’ semelparous nature)

Conservation

Status

Queensland: Least concern (Nature Conservation Act 1992)
National: Endangered (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999),
IUCN: Lower risk – Near threatened (2007 Red List)

Current activities

  • A draft Recovery Plan for the northern quoll is before the federal Environment Minister but has yet to be ratified by the States or the Commonwealth.
  • Research projects which aim to document quoll populations are planned or underway including:
  • Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland – Protecting Quolls in Queensland Landscapes
  • Join Wildlife Queensland's Quoll Seekers Network.