Monday, 1 September 2008

Endangered quoll spotted

Endangered quoll spotted
30/05/2008 10:52:00 AM
An endangered species rarely ever seen in the local district has been discovered by a Spicer’s Creek grazier.
Geoff Taylor has had the unusual experience of sighting not one but two spotted-tailed quolls in recent weeks.
A native carnivore, the quoll or ‘tiger cat’ is almost unheard of in this area and sightings have not been reported since the early 1950s.
“I was fairly surprised,” Mr Taylor said after finding the animal in the family chookyard on his ‘Gunnegalderie’ property 25kms north-east of Wellington.
Recognising the extraordinary find, he immediately contacted WIRES but the animal had been injured in its hunting expedition and was later euthanased.
Mr Taylor’s second sighting occurred a few weeks later when he was driving home from town.
“It was on the road about four or five kilometres from our house,” he said.
“I knew immediately what it was and got a pretty clear look at it.
“It was a pretty unique experience because they are so elusive.”
As far as habitat goes, the spotted-tailed quoll favours forest woodland and dense coastal heathland. According to a fact sheet published by the Department of Environment and Heritage, its distribution has markedly decreased since European settlement, and it is now uncommon across most of its range.
“The small Queensland subspecies is nationally endangered and the larger south-eastern subspecies, although common in Tasmania, is listed as nationally vulnerable,” the fact sheet says.
The discovery has prompted excitement among local wildlife enthusiasts.
At first, Mike Augee was sceptical about the find but certainly excited by the prospect.
“It’s quite uncommon as they are thought to be totally non-existent in this area,” he said.
“But it’s fantastic, it really is quite exciting that they are still here - they are a lovely animal.”
According to Mr Augee, competition with foxes and the threat of domestic animals such as dogs and cats have contributed to the quoll’s scarcity.
“The population that is left cannot compete with foxes which are certainly dominant,” he said.
Local Rural Lands Protection Board ranger Lisa Thomas was also thrilled by the finding.
“I find the discovery a wonderful experience and feel privileged that we have evidence of them in our precious neck of the woods instead of being envious of others,” she said.
Mrs Thomas said the quoll-spotting also provided a further incentive to get a robust monitoring system up and running.
Meanwhile, for Mr Taylor it’s business as usual, but he is planning to continue with fox eradication on his property to give the quolls a chance at survival.
“I like to see the native fauna coming back,” he said.

Spotted-tailed quoll facts

-Scientific name: Dasyurus maculatus
-Common names: Spot-tailed quoll, tiger cat
-Average head-body length: 38 to 76cm (male); 35 to 45cm (female)
-Tail length: 37 to 55cm (male); 34 to 42cm (female)
-Average weight: Up to 7kg (male); up to 4kg (female)
-Threats: Predation by foxes; competition with foxes and feral cats; poison baiting for dogs, foxes and rabbits; and chance events such as bushfires and disease.
-Food sources: It forages in trees and on rock faces as well as on the ground. It is largely nocturnal and eats small to medium sized mammals and birds, such as possums and rosellas, and also large insects, spiders and scorpions.

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