Western Quolls are a feisty marsupial predator,
and their planned addition to Arid Recovery in 2018 will help us achieve a balanced ecosystem.
Photo by Georgina Andersen
Range and Abundance
The Western Quoll (Dasyurus geoffroii), also known as the Chuditch or Idnya, once inhabited over 70% of the Australian continent. Its range extended from western Queensland and New South Wales across central Australia to the Western Australian coastline. They occurred across a variety of habitat types. Following European settlement, the Western Quoll disappeared from most of its former range and is now only found naturally in the jarrah forests, woodlands and mallee shrublands of south-western Western Australia.
The Western Quoll is a mid-sized carnivore, about the size of a small domestic cat. They have a brown coat with numerous white spots along the back, sides and legs. The pattern of spots is unique to every individual quoll and can be used to tell individuals apart from camera trap images.
Their tail is long and has a black, brushy tip. The head to body length is about 330 mm, the tail length averages 208 mm. Females can weigh up to 1 kg while males can weight up to 2 kg.
Western Quolls are primarily nocturnal and during the day will shelter in hollow logs or down burrows. Western Quolls at Arid Recovery are found to mostly shelter in bettong warrens and single entrance burrows.
Western Quolls are solitary animals with males and females only coming together to mate. They have quite large home ranges in order to find suitable shelter and sufficient prey. In Western Australia, female home ranges are between 55 – 120 ha and are vigorously defended. Males home ranges are even larger and usually overlap broadly with both male and female home ranges.
Western Quolls are generalist carnivores, feeding on a wide range of prey including large invertebrates, reptiles, mammals and birds (up to the size of bandicoots and parrots). They kill larger prey with a bite to the back of the head. They primarily forage on the ground, but can also climb trees to find prey.
Female Western Quolls give birth to up to 6 young between May and September. The young are kept in the mother’s pouch until they outgrow it at between two to three months of age. The mother then leaves the young in the den while she goes out to feed. The young are weaned at about five to six months of age and are fully mature at one year.
Three baby Western Quolls born in the Arid Recovery reserve.
Western Quolls are highly promiscuous. Females may mate with several males during a breeding season, and males cover a lot of ground. For their size, quolls are a relatively short-lived species. In the wild the maximum lifespan is four years but the average is two.
The decline of the Western Quoll is attributed to a number of factors including habitat modification through altered fire regimes and land clearing for agriculture and stock grazing. Predation by feral cats and foxes has also contributed greatly to the Western Quoll’s decline. Additionally, Western Quolls are likely to be in direct competition with feral cats and foxes for the same food resources. Shooting and poisoning are also thought to have contributed to their decline. The Western Quoll currently only occupies 2% of its former range and is now listed nationally as Vulnerable.
What is Arid Recovery Doing?
In 2015 and 2016 Arid Recovery trialled a reintroduction of the Western Quoll to test if the species was suited to life at Arid Recovery. The reintroduction was a success, with two female and two male Western Quolls establishing territories and breeding inside the reserve. We are hopeful that reintroducing a native predator like the Western Quoll to the reserve may help return important ecological processes to the reserve and go some way to bringing the burgeoning burrowing bettong population into equilibrium.
A full-scale reintroduction of the Western Quoll is scheduled for 2018. This will be great for Arid Recovery, and also bolster the number of Western Quolls in South Australia by sharing animals with the recent reintroduction into the Flinders Ranges.
The adult quoll named Jindoo is released into the reserve by Dr Rebecca West. Photo by Travis Hague.
Written by Rachael Loneragan (March 2017)