Prowling the forests of southern Queensland after dark, the spottedtailed quoll, Dasyurus maculatus, is the largest marsupial carnivore on the Australian mainland. Female quolls average around two kilograms in weight, while males can reach five kilograms and have a total body and tail length approaching 1.5 metres. Despite their relatively small size, quolls are ferocious predators, able to subdue prey up to five times their own size with a devastating killing bite to the back of the neck. Quolls have been known to take prey ranging from freshwater crayfish and goannas through to small and medium size macropods, but their favourite foods include possums, greater gliders, and introduced rabbits.
On mainland Australia, spotted-tailed quolls once occurred from Gladstone in central Queensland, south on both sides of the Great Dividing Range into zouth Australia. Quolls have disappeared from up to 90 percent of their former range, and they now have a patchy distribution centred in New South Wales, with several small populations hanging on in Queensland and Victoria. There are also subspecies in Tasmania, where numbers are still secure, and Queensland’s Wet Tropics, where only a couple of hundred individuals remain.
The main cause of spotted-tailed quoll declines is habitat clearing and fragmentation. The species roams across huge areas, with males having overlapping home ranges averaging 1,000 to 2,000 hectares. Females defend non-overlapping territories up to 800 hectares in extent. Because they have such large home ranges, quolls require vast tracts of relatively undisturbed forest in order to survive and thrive. Ideally, these remnant forests should also have high densities of prey, and a broad range of denning sites, including fallen and standing tree hollows, rock crevices, and burrows. Other threats to quolls include predation and competition from introduced foxes and cats, roadkill, and deliberate persecution around chicken coops.
In southern Queensland, quoll sightings have plummeted in recent decades. What was once a continuous population has become restricted to a handful of large protected areas and adjacent forested lands, including the McPherson and Main Ranges, Lamington Plateau, and potentially the Burnett Ranges and Dalby region. Their true stronghold in Queensland is the Granite Belt region, where quolls have been recorded in Girraween and Sundown National Parks, Broadwater State Forest, and numerous private properties between and around these protected areas. Connecting and expanding the protected area estate in this region, and working closely with private landholders to make production properties more quoll-friendly, are the keys to the survival of this feisty little
predator in Queensland.
Because of their large home ranges, and their position in the landscape as a top order predator, quolls are the perfect conservation umbrella species. By default, protecting areas suitable for self-sustaining quoll populations will also protect a plethora of other threatened and common fauna and flora species. In the southern downs region alone, spotted-tailed quolls share their habitat with around 40 other threatened fauna species and 80 flora species. While quoll conservation will require collaboration between a diverse range of stakeholders, it is our responsibility to ensure that these beautiful carnivores do not fade.
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When I was in Early Primary School at Kenilworth in the Mid Fifties, I remember a classmate bring a dead Native Tiger Cat as they were called, to our Classroom to show the Teacher and Class. It was killed while raiding his parent’s Chook Shed. I remember being impressed by the creature’s sharp teeth. That was the only time I ever saw a Quoll, despite farming in the Area for years.