Spotted quolls or quolls – spotted?

Results from a wildlife camera show some cute friends visiting a bird bath in the night. 

This month, Landcare Tasmania’s Pete Stronach set up a wildlife monitoring camera in front of a home bird bath.  The purpose of this camera was to monitor the various types of birds which might stop for a drink when no one is looking!  To Pete’s surprise – the camera not only caught footage of birds, but also a cheeky quoll stealing a drink!

A spotted-tail quoll quenches its thirst in the bird bath!

This got us thinking - what do we know about quolls? 


Where will you find quolls?

There are two types of quolls in Tasmania, the eastern quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus) and the spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus).  The other two types of quolls (western quoll and northern quoll) are found only in small regions in the south-west of Western Australia and the northern coasts of Australia. 

Eastern quolls are almost exclusively found in Tasmania, besides a small re-introduction habitat in Victoria.  Spotted-tailed quolls are considered relatively common in Tasmania, and populations remain in eastern Australia.  

Quolls use a wide range of habitats.  They are known to use tree hollows, rock crevices, fallen logs, and underground burrows for shelter during the day, and go out alone to hunt at night.  


How can you tell the difference between an eastern quoll and a spotted-tailed quoll?

The two quolls in Tasmania are quite different in size!  The spotted-tailed quoll averages in a weight of 7kg (male) and 4kg (female), while eastern quolls weigh in at just 1.3kg (male) and 0.9kg (female).

Spotted–tailed quolls are red-brown with bright white spots across their entire body (note– including the tail!).   They are mostly nocturnal, and are carnivorous.  They eat medium sized mammals as well as insects and spiders! 

Eastern quolls have a more delicate build with black or fawn fur.  White spots cover their body but their tail is plain with a pale tip.  Eastern quolls are lone hunters of the night, and eat small animals, grass, fruit and carrion.


Threats to quolls

Unfortunately, these cute creatures of the night have been subject to dramatic declines in populations over the years.  The eastern quoll and spotted quoll are listed as ‘endangered’ and ‘vulnerable’ respectively under the EPBC Act.

The main threats to quolls are habitat loss, fragmentation, predation/food competition, and sadly - roads.  Quolls also have a short breeding season and a short lifespan of just 2-4 years.

Clearing of native vegetation and harvesting of timber has dramatically reduced the availability of dens and suitable habitat for quolls.  Other threats include foxes, cats, and road accidents. 


How can we help? 

The best way to protect quolls is to maintain native vegetation, conserve hollow logs and manage feral predators.

DPIPWEs threatened species link has a comprehensive list of steps you can take to help quolls on your private land.  This includes identifying potential habitat, organising formal surveys, recording observations, vegetation management, entering a conservation covenant, effective cat/pet management, support of fox eradication, and care while driving at night.

The University of Tasmania conducts research work on quolls in Tasmania, you can check out a video on their program here. 

You can also check out the national recovery plan for the spotted-tailed quoll here.

Recording quoll deaths is important for estimating their populations, which in turn aids conservation efforts. Using the RoadKill app is an easy and impactful way that everyone can contribute.

Let's take care of our precious quolls! 

Photo: David Gallan