Species profile

Northern Quoll

Northern Quoll

Range and abundance

The Northern Quoll formerly occurred across northern Australia from Western Australia to south-east Queensland. Its distribution has declined dramatically, especially in the more arid parts of its range, with populations declining rapidly after the arrival of the cane toad. Extant populations occur in the Pilbara, Kimberley, parts of the Northern Territory and near-coastal Queensland. Remnant populations are associated with rocky areas. In higher rainfall parts of its range where the cane toad does not occur, such as Groote Eylandt and the northern Kimberley, the Northern Quoll remains common.

Description

The Northern Quoll is the smallest of the four Australian quoll species with a body length of 249 - 370 mm, a tail length of 202 - 345 mm, and weight of 240 - 1120 g. It has reddish brown fur, with a cream underside, white spots on its back and rump, a blackish tail and a pointed snout.

Ecology

Northern Quolls are nocturnal predators of invertebrates, but they also eat small mammals, reptiles, birds, carrion and fruit. Quolls become sexually mature at one year of age. During the mating season (around June to August), males expend considerable energy fighting other males, and do not survive to breed a second year. Females den in tree hollows, hollow logs and rock crevices; they raise a litter of up to eight young. At the end of the breeding season, the Northern Quoll population is comprised almost entirely of mature females and their young. Females may live for two or three years.

Threats

Predation by feral cats is a major threat to Northern Quolls. The impacts of cats are exacerbated by extensive hot fires and grazing, which reduce ground cover and hence shelter for small mammals. Northern Quolls are also especially vulnerable to being poisoned by cane toads. During the last few decades, as cane toads have spread across northern Australia, populations of Northern Quolls have declined in recently invaded areas. Loss of habitat due to agricultural and urban development threatens localised populations.


What is AWC doing?

AWC protects three populations of Northern Quoll and their habitat on a number of our northern sanctuaries. AWC works to reduce the impacts of cat predation by improving ground cover, by implementing fire management to reduce the frequency of extensive late season fires and by control of feral herbivores.

AWC ecologists monitor populations of the Northern Quoll on Brooklyn and in the Kimberley, and conduct a number of research projects aimed at better understanding the conservation requirements of the species. AWC has a targeted strategy for Northern Quolls because they are already an endangered species and particularly vulnerable to cane toads. AWC's taste aversion training project in the Kimberley aims to prevent the extinction of Northern Quoll populations on Mornington and the neighbouring crown land by teaching quolls to avoid cane toads.

Did you know:

The Northern Quoll’s short life-span and annual male ‘die-off’ makes populations vulnerable to extinction from high-impact threats such as those posed by the initial invasion of large numbers of cane toads into an area. Nevertheless, some populations – such as that on Brooklyn - have persisted for decades after invasion by cane toads. It is possible that surviving quolls may have learnt not to eat toads.