April 2021

Spot the dinner guest

Can you please tell me if the animal in the video is a quoll? We live in the town of Bowen and it has been visiting my kitchen every night.

Answer

Thank you for sending us your fantastic video of an animal for identification. The curious creature foraging in your kitchen at night is a Northern Quoll, Dasyurus hallucatus.

Northern Quolls are the smallest of the four species of quoll that exist in Australia; the Northern, Spotted-tailed, Eastern and Western Quolls. Although small, these carnivorous marsupials are known for their voracious appetite and particularly aggressive disposition.

The species name, hallucatus, means ‘notable first digit’. This refers to the short ‘thumb’ on the hindfoot, which assists in gripping when climbing. This species of quoll can be distinguished by brown fur with white spots on their back, head and rump, hindfeet with ridged pads and five toes and black hair covering the lower half of the tail.

The Northern Quoll formerly occurred across northern Australia, from Western Australia to south-east Queensland, with remnant populations existing now in several distinct areas. In Queensland, they can be found from Cooktown to Rockhampton in rocky habitat and high rainfall areas.

Northern Quolls are opportunistic omnivores and prey on invertebrates including beetles, spiders, grasshoppers, centipedes and moths. Their diet also consists of small mammals such as rodents and possums, reptiles, birds and amphibians. They also dine on soft fruits, flower nectar, carrion and have been known to scavenge for scraps in garbage bins.

Northern Quolls are both arboreal and terrestrial and will use a variety of den sites including rocky crevices, tree hollows, termite mound, logs and goanna burrows. In human dwellings they will occupy wall cavities, ceilings and even the inside of couches. They are primarily nocturnal but are occasionally active during the day, especially during overcast weather, and the mating season.

Northern Quolls have a surprisingly short life span. Quolls become sexually mature at one year of age. During the mating season, males expend significant amounts of energy fighting other males and tending to potential suitors. They do not survive to breed a second year. Females nest in tree hollows, hollow logs and rock crevices where they raise a litter of up to eight young, called joeys.

Sadly, Northern Quoll populations have declined dramatically in recent years. This is due to a range of threats such as poisoning by cane toads, habitat destruction and fragmentation, and predation from introduced species such as feral cats and foxes. We can all do our part to help protect quolls by supporting protection of their habitats and keeping pets indoors.

The Northern Quoll is currently listed as Near Threatened in Queensland under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and Endangered under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.


Northern Quoll, Dasyurus hallucatus.

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