In 2001, some 50 Western Quolls (Dasyurus geoffroii) were translocated from Perth Zoo - where they had been bred – to Kalbarri National Park, our direct neighbour on Eurardy Reserve's western boundary.
Led by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA), the Chuditch (as they're widely known in Western Australia from a word used by the Noongar people) took successfully to their new home and have bred and persisted at Kalbarri ever since but we've never recorded them on Eurardy.
While trawling through camera trap images this week as a welcome break during inductions for my new role as Eurardy Reserve Manager, Bush Heritage ecologist Ben Parkhurst and I made an exciting discovery: the distinct white spots of a Western Quoll caught on one of Eurardy’s monitoring cameras.
This particular camera is located on Eurardy’s eastern boundary, which means the quoll had likely travelled at least 27km from the translocated population in the gorges of Kalbarri National Park, passing through Eurardy, and survived crossing the Great Northern Highway.
Young male Chuditch are known to clock up significant kilometres as they disperse to find their own territories, usually around November. As this photograph was recorded in December, our thinking is that this individual was a young male doing just this.
Although it’s unlikely there’s a self-sustaining population of Western Quolls on Eurardy currently, it’s not impossible in the future. Chuditch thrive in habitat that's complex, with ample hollowed logs, rocky crevices, and burrows allowing them to hide from introduced predators like feral cats and foxes.
Today, Western Quolls persist in the forests and woodlands of southwestern Western Australia, and have been successfully reintroduced into Kalbarri National Park, and Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park in South Australia.
The reintroduced populations have been successful due to careful management of introduced predators (data indicates that Chuditch benefit from intensifying control of feral cats and foxes) and considered site selection to provide the best habitat for the species.
The Western Quoll may one day return home to Eurardy. The reserve already provides complex habitat in its old-growth York Gum woodland and will provide even more suitable habitat into the future through its restoration project.
It's ideally situated between Kalbarri National Park, an existing home, and Toolanga Nature Reserve. This is no accident, but highlights the value of Bush Heritage’s prioritisation of connectedness when purchasing land.
As we adapt and learn from our new integrated pest management program at Eurardy and our other mid west reserves - Charles Darwin and Hamelin - and look to increase our control efforts through potential collaboration with neighbours like DBCA, I hope that the Western Quoll will continue to be a part of Eurardy’s future.