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Eastern quolls

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The quoll of two colors

eastern quoll

Quolls are small marsupial carnivores that fill a niche somewhat similar to that of martens in the northern hemisphere.

They are dasyurids and are close relatives of the Tasmanian devil and the thylacine.

There are four species of quoll in Australia and two in New Guinea.

One of the Australian quolls is the Eastern quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus). It is currently found only in Tasmania, but its range once included much of the southeastern Australian mainland.

It comes in two distinct morphs.

A fawn:

fawn eastern quoll

And a black:

black eastern quoll

Now, remember when I said these animal were extinct on the Australian mainland?

Well, that’s not exactly accurate.

The last “native” mainland Eastern quoll died in Sydney in 1963. These little marsupials, though called “native cats,” are thought to have suffered greatly when foxes were introduced to Australia.  Foxes readily kill them, and because Tasmania has been fox free up until very recently. it was thought that this was why the Eastern quoll has been able to thrive there.

However, there appears to be a population of Eastern quolls living in the state of Victoria. Victoria is within the Eastern quoll’s historical range on the mainland.

These quolls are most likely not a relict population of native Victorian Eastern quolls.  They most likely are escapees from Mount Rothwell Conservation and Research Centre near Melbourne. These quolls are breeding in large enclosures at the facility, and it is possible that they get a few escapees every now and then.

But that’s what’s left of the Eastern quoll on the Australian mainland, but there do continue to be lots of sightings of them.

Maybe one day we’ll find a genuine relict population of Eastern quolls on the mainland.

I certainly hope so.

I don’t think the fox can ever be eliminated in Australia.

That genie was let out of the bottle long ago, and it can never be put back.

But fox and cat free areas can be created. Even encouraging dingo populations to expand might play an important role in controlling fox and cat numbers.  Dingoes will kill cats and foxes, and that could mean that the quolls and other small native fauna might thrive in dingo-rich habitats.

Australia’s native fauna was essentially doomed the second Europeans encountered the continent.

But parts of the doom can be mitigated.

I hope we can mitigate some of the issues have that have really harmed the quoll of two colors.

Such a bad fate shouldn’t befall such a ridiculously cute and undeniably fascinating animal.

 

 

 

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This is a Eastern quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus):

These animals also come in a fawn color.

They went extinct on the mainland in 1963.

However, there was a sighting on the mainland in 2006.

These animals are smaller than tiger quolls.  They approach only the smallest domestic cats in size.

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black-eastern-quoll

The answer to yesterday’s “What is the Species?” is an eastern quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus). The one in the photo above is a darker phase than the one in the photo that asked the question.

There are several species of quoll– the New Guinea quoll, the bronze quoll. the western quoll, the northern quoll, and the tiger quoll.  Quolls are sometimes referred to as “native cats” or “marsupial martens.” I find the latter to be a more accurate description of their ecological niche and appearance.

The eastern quoll once lived in Eastern Australia and Tasmania. Today, its thought to exist only in Tasmania. Apparently, it could not survive competition with and predation from feral cats and then succumbed to predation by foxes. It was also widely poisoned because it was viewed to be threat to poultry. It tends to live in areas very close to farming enterprises, so it is possible that the quoll took the odd chicken. It is also possible that all of these pressures combined with a disease that finally extirpated them from the mainland.

A mainland population may still exist, but if it does, it is very small and fragmented. The most recent sighting of the mainland eastern quoll was in 2006, so it is  worth exploring to see if they are still out there.

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