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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
SPOTTED-TAILED QUOLL


Spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus)

Photo: Scott Burnett

(Dasyurus maculatus)

Also called … Tiger quoll, tiger cat, yarri (Herbert River District), burrumbil (Mulgrave River and Atherton Tablelands, north Queensland)

Introduction

The spotted-tailed quoll is mainland Australia's largest marsupial carnivore. It was one of the first Australian animals to be encountered by Europeans; Arthur Phillip's party collected one at Port Jackson in 1788. As a top predator, the spotted-tailed quoll probably plays an important role in regulating the populations of other animals that it eats.

There are 3 sub-species of spotted-tailed quoll: Dasyurus maculatus gracilis from the wet tropics of north-eastern Queensland; D. m. maculatus from south-east Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria; and an as-yet unnamed subspecies from Tasmania. The subspecies differ subtly from one another in body size, coat colour and patterning, and genetics.

Spotted-tailed quolls appear to be making a comeback in some areas, notably the western and southern outskirts of Brisbane (see Distribution). You can help Quollseekers Network by helping record sightings of the spotted-tailed quoll.

Description

  • Longer than 75cm nose to tail tip therefore larger by 3 or 4 times than any of the other five species of quoll.
  • Hind foot length greater than 55mm),
  • The only quoll species in which spots continue from body onto the tail.

Signs

  • Scats left within its habitat
    • on prominent rock outcrops, creek beds and escarpment lines.
    • have a distinctive musky smell (not the sharp unpleasant smell of fresh cat, dog or fox scats)
    • twisted ropey appearance
    • often deposited in communal latrine sites, where dozens of scats can accumulate during a season.
  • Repeated attacks upon caged poultry (often the first noticeable sign) in which
    • only the head, or parts of the neck consumed on the first night.
    • quolls return to these carcasses day after day until all is consumed.
  • Tracks in soft ground

     Spotted-tailed quoll front footprint

    Spotted-tailed quoll rear footprint

    Spotted-tailed quoll scats - Distinctive twisted rope

Sounds

The low-pitch hiss and screech on this recording are both quoll calls.

<bgsound src="/wildlife/speciesprofile/mammals/image/quolls/spottedtailedquoll.mp3" />


Typical Quoll Habitat
Photo © Luke Jackson

Habitat

  • Forest and woodland including rainforest, and wet and dry sclerophyll forest and woodland.
  • Within these habitats, rocky escarpments or boulder piles are favoured.

Ecology

Life history

Quolls live for less than 3-4 years. Females rarely breed after the age of 3 years. This probably explains their threatened status: populations die out if recruitment (i.e. new animals born or moving into the population) is low for as few as 2 or 3 successive years.

Breeding

  • Quolls are solitary. However both males and females mate with multiple partners during their brief autumn and winter breeding period.
  • Spotted-tailed quolls have a single litter of up to 6 young each year, born between May and August.
  • Each litter is sired by more than one father.
  • Young are carried in a rudimentary pouch and, when they become too large, they are left behind in a nursery den while the mother forages.
  • Young quolls become independent at about 100 days.

Food

  • Opportunistic predators and scavengers of anything of animal origin
  • Hunt on the ground and in trees for rodents, bandicoots and possums - their main prey
  • Females and juveniles eat smaller prey than the larger males, and include more reptiles and birds in their diet than males do
  • Prey or carrion can be too large to be eaten in one so quolls come back day after day until the meal is completely consumed (see Signs).

Home range

Quolls are solitary with home ranges of up to 4000ha. Female home ranges are generally much smaller than this, though still several hundred hectares in size.


Dasyurus maculatus sightings

Distribution

  • Tasmania and forested areas of South Australian-Victorian border to Cooktown in north Queensland.
  • Queensland distribution is patchy along the east coast; quoll hotspots in the Border Ranges, and the mountains and tablelands between Townsville and Cooktown.

Threats

(In order of how serious the threat is.)

  1. Land clearing and loss of habitat that comes from this
  2. Being killed at poultry yards and accidental road deaths
  3. Poisoned by eating cane toads and 1080 baits laid for wild dogs
  4. Predation and competition by dogs, cats (that eat quoll young) and foxes (minor threat contributing to overall drop in populations)
  5. Predation by wedge-tailed eagles, dingoes, pythons, large forest owls and goannas

Conservation

Status

D. maculatus maculatus (Range: south-east Queensland, NSW, Victoria)
Queensland: Vulnerable (Queensland Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 1994)
National: Endangered (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999)

D. maculatus gracilis (Range: north-east Queensland)
Queensland: Endangered (Queensland Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 1994)
National: Endangered (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999)

Current activities

  • Draft national recovery plan for the spotted-tailed quoll. When published, this recovery plan will set the framework for spotted-tailed quoll conservation needs and activities.
  • Join Wildlife Queensland's Quoll Seekers Network.

More information

Some papers published on Spotted-tailed Quolls

  • Belcher, C.A. (1995). Diet of the tiger quoll (Dasyurus maculatus). Wildlife Research 22(3): 341-357
  • Belcher, C.A. (1998). Susceptibility of the tiger quoll, Dasyurus maculatus, and the eastern quoll, D. viverrinus, to 1080-poisoned baits in control programmes for vertebrate pests in eastern Australia. Wildlife Research 25(1) 33-40
  • Belcher, C.A. and Darrant, J.P. (2004) Home range and spatial organization of the marsupial carnivore, Dasyurus maculatus maculatus (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae) in south-eastern Australia. Journal of Zoology 262:3, 271-280
  • Belcher, C.A. and Darrant, J.P. (2006) Habitat use by tiger quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae) in south-eastern Australia. Journal of Zoology 269:2, 183-190
  • Belcher, C.A. (2003). Demographics of tiger quoll (Dasyurus maculatus maculatus) populations in south-eastern Australia. Australian Journal of Zoology 51(6) 611-626
  • Claridge, A.W., Murray, A.J., Dawson, J., Poore, R., Mifsud, G.& Saxon, M.J. (2006). The propensity of spotted-tailed quolls (Dasyurus maculatus) to encounter and consume non-toxic meat baits in a simulated canid-control program. Wildlife Research 33(2) 85-91
  • Glen, A.S. & Dickman, C.R. (2006) Home range, denning behaviour and microhabitat use of the carnivorous marsupial Dasyurus maculatus in eastern Australia. Journal of Zoology 268:4, 347-354
  • Mansergh, I (1983).The status, distribution and abundance of Dasyurus maculatus (tiger quoll) in Australia, with particular reference to Victoria. Australian Zoologist. 21 (2): 109-122.
  • Firestone,K.B., Elphinstone, M.S., Sherwin, W.B., Houlden, B.A. (1999). Phylogeographical population structure of tiger quolls Dasyurus maculatus (Dasyuridae: Marsupialia), an endangered carnivorous marsupial. Molecular Ecology 8 (10): 1613-1625
  • Murray, A.J. & Poore, R. M. (2004). Potential impact of aerial baiting for wild dogs on a population of spotted-tailed quolls (Dasyurus maculatus). Wildlife Research 31(6) 639-644

Quoll websites

Quoll species profile published by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.

Species profile prepared by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service

Species profile published by the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Heritage

Species profile published by the Tasmanian National Parks and Wildlife Service