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Animal of the Month
August 2018

Name: Eastern Quoll (A.K.A. native cat)

Classification:
Class: Mammmalia
Order: Dasyuromorphia
Family: Dasyuridae
Genus: Dasyursus
Species: D. viverrinus

Size: Males body 12-17 inches, tail 8-11 inches; females 11-15 inches long, tail 7-9 inches.
Weight: Males 2-4.5 lbs.; females 1.5-2 lbs.

Characteristics: Furry, quadruped, four-fingered paws, long tail, two eyes and a pointed snout, two ears.
Color(s): Brown or black with white spots, white belly, pink nose and paws.
Behavior: Nocturnal, burrowing, solitary

Preferred Habitat: Varied, including wet scrubland, grassland, forests, alpine ecosystems and agricultural lands neighboring forests.
Range: Throughout Tasmania, especially the eastern-half of the island, and Bruny Island.
Diet: Opportunistic; mostly feeds on invertebrates including grubs and beetles but will also hunt small mammals, snakes and birds, scavenge carcasses and grasses and fruits.
Lifespan: 3-5 years

Status: ENDANGERED.

Australia is known for being the marsupial capital of the world, home to many iconic species such as the kangaroo, the koala and the Tasmanian devil. But there is another marsupial that is not known well in the United States: the quoll! Quolls are small nocturnal marsupials that live in Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea. They are about the size of a cat, which is why they are sometimes called a "native cat" in Australia. One species, the eastern quoll, is found exclusively in the forests, plains and wet scrublands of Tasmania.

Eastern quolls live alone. They forage for food at night and sleep in a burrow or hollowed log by day. They prefer to eat invertebrates like grubs and beetles, but they are wildly opportunistic. They will prey on smaller animals such as mammals, reptiles and birds, eat grasses and fruits, and scavenge the carcasses of larger animals. They are even known to raid the kills of Tasmanian devils, darting in and stealing mouthfuls of meat!

Breeding usually occurs during the winter season between May and August. After a gestation period of 21 days the mother will give birth. The babies are about the size of a grain of rice, and the mother can have as many as thirty babies in a single litter! After birth the young live inside her pouch, but unfortunately the mother can only provide enough milk for six of her offspring. The ones that can find their way to her teats inside the pouch are the ones that will survive.

After ten weeks the babies will leave the mother's pouch and live in a burrow or hollow log while the mother looks for food. If necessary she will carry the young on her back and take them to a new home. When the babies are five months old the mother will leave them in a grassy field where they will go out on their own. After a year they will become sexually mature. The eastern quoll usually lives for three-to-five years in the wild.

The eastern quoll is endangered. It was once found across southeast Australia as well as Tasmania. Sadly, it was considered extinct by around 1963 in mainland Australia. A few stray individuals have been found in the last few decades, but the vast majority of the species is currently found on Tasmania and Bruny Island. The disappearance of the eastern quoll is not well understood; most people believe it was a combination of competition, predation and disease from non-native species including the red fox and feral cats. Farmers also hunted them in the past, as the quoll has been known to eat domestic poultry. It is widely common in Tasmania, but is threatened by red foxes, dogs, feral cats, insecticides, illegal hunting and habitat destruction.

Fortunately the eastern quoll is protected by law in Australia. Programs to eradicate non-native species have been underway, and in early 2018, a group of 20 individuals were reintroduced to Booderee National Park in New South Wales, Australia. This is the first time a native carnivorous species has ever been reintroduced in Australia! In addition, the Australian Quoll Conservancy is working to study and preserve all quoll species in Australia.

To learn more about these native cats, check out these fantastic websites:

Australian Quoll Conservancy-Dedicated to preserving the four quoll species of Australia.
http://www.quolls.org.au

Animalia, Eastern Quoll page-More information and fascinating facts about the eastern quoll! (Note: this website is slightly out of date as it classes the eastern quoll as Near Threatened. The IUCN clearly classes this species as Endangered. Apart from that, this is an excellent resource).
http://animalia.bio/eastern-quoll

National Geographic Article: "Cat-Sized Marsupials Reintroduced to Australia's Mainland for First Time-Read how the eastern quoll is getting a second chance in mainland Australia!
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/03/endangered-marsupial-reintroduced-australia-spd/

 

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