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Spotted-tail Quoll. Photo Bruce Thomson.
Spotted-tail Quoll. Photo Bruce Thomson.


Don’t let their pink noses and thick, soft fur fool you: Australia's 'native cats' aren’t much like cats at all. Quolls are actually tree-climbing, den-dwelling marsupials.

We have four species of quoll in Australia:

  1. Spotted-tailed Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus)
  2. Western Quoll (Dasyurus geoffroii)
  3. Eastern Quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus)
  4. Northern Quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus).

Growing up to 125cm (including a long tail) and 5kg, the Spotted-tail Quoll (or Tiger Quoll) is now the largest native carnivore left on the mainland (excluding dingoes). The Northern Quoll is the smallest quoll, with males weighing around 1kg (females are appreciably smaller).

Quolls have black to fawn fur, white spots, long tails and sharp teeth. Their genus name, Dasyurus, means ‘hairy-tail’.

Northern Quoll. Photo Steve Parish.

Where do Quolls live?

The quolls’ story is one of dramatic decline. Quolls were once relatively abundant across most of Australia.

Before European settlement at least one species of quoll inhabited most parts of the country.

The Western Quoll, for instance, was once found across 70% of Australia. It’s now mostly confined to the far south-west of Western Australia. The Eastern Quoll, once widespread in south-east Australia, has been extinct on the mainland since the 1960s.

A Spotted-tailed Quoll is released with a tracking collar. Photo Rowena Hamer.

For these reasons, the Eastern, and Northern Quoll are listed as Endangered, while the Spotted-tail Quoll and Western Quoll are Near Threatened according to by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Where they remain, quolls use a wide range of habitats. They live in coastal heathlands, sub-alpine woodlands, temperate woodlands and forests, riparian forests and wet sclerophyll forests.


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Quoll behaviour

Females are smaller than males and have smaller home ranges. Male quolls can move up to several kilometres a night in search of food.

Quolls often create dens in tree hollows, rock crevices, underground burrows, fallen logs and (for Northern Quolls) even termite mounds.

Quolls generally shelter in these dens during the day and hunt alone at night. They’re generalist, opportunistic carnivores – in other words, they eat a wide variety of food, as long as it’s meat!

An Eastern Quoll caught and collared for research in the Tasmanian Midlands. Photo Rowena Hamer.

Quolls generally breed during winter. Being marsupials, quoll young (pups) spend the first part of their lives in a pouch. Females have between five and eight pups per litter.

Western Quoll pups outgrow the pouch after nine weeks, after which the young are left in a den while the female searches for food. Young reach independence and leave the den at around five months.

The Spotted-tailed Quoll can eat medium-sized birds and mammals, such as possums and rabbits. Smaller quoll species eat insects, reptiles, frogs, birds’ eggs, small birds and mammals.

Some Quolls can climb high into trees to capture prey, including tree-roosting sleeping birds. Northern Quolls are the smallest, most aggressive and most arboreal (tree-based) of all quoll species, Eastern Quolls are the least.

A Spotted-tail Quoll is released in the Tasmanian Midlands. Photo Rowena Hamer.

Quolls eat carrion (dead animals), and are sometimes seen scavenging around campsites, rubbish bins and roadsides. Unfortunately this increases their risk of being hit by cars.

Most quolls have short life-spans, generally living only 2 to 4 years in the wild (longer in captivity). Like many dasyurids (dunnarts, quolls, planigales, antechinus and the like), quolls have an extraordinary mating system, in which most reproduction occurs in the first year of life. After an exhaustive effort, most male Northern Quolls die after their first mating season, with females only faring marginally better. Few live beyond their second breeding season.

Threats to quolls

The primary threats to quolls are habitat loss and fragmentation.

Through harvesting timber and clearing native vegetation, humans have reduced the availability of suitable habitat and the abundance of quolls’ prey, and limited the number of hollow logs suitable for dens.

Foxes and cats prey on quolls and directly compete with them for food. Other human-induced impacts include illegal shooting, car accidents and the ingestion of poison baits set for dingoes and wild dogs. Cane toads have also decimated the Northern Quoll population, though some suggest they’re beginning to learn to avoid the poisonous toads.

An Eastern Quoll on the prowl. Photo Heath Holden.

What’s Bush Heritage doing?

We’re proud to have all four species of quolls on land we help protect. Spotted-tail Quolls and Eastern Quolls are present on our Tasmanian reserves and partnership properties. The Northern Quoll is commonly recorded in the Uunguu IPA (our Wunambal Gaambera partnership), and has been caught on camera at Carnarvon Station Reserve and Western Quolls have been recorded on monitoring cameras in the Fitz-Stirling region of south-west, WA as well as our mid-west reserves Eurady and Hamelin.

Quolls are highly elusive and not easily seen or trapped in traditional wildlife traps. For this reason, we’ve used ‘quoll sniffer dogs’ to help confirm their presence and distribution on Carnarvon Station Reserve and also to search for quolls on Yourka Reserve, which provides perfect habitat. 

We protect quoll habitat, by maintaining native vegetation and conserving hollow logs. Our fire management helps preserve quoll habitat and important habitat features, while our feral predator management, aimed at foxes and cats, also reduces competition and the pressure of predation.

Donate today to help us continue this and other vital conservation work.

Quoll stories

BLOG 13/07/2021

Quoll patrol 🐾

When it rains, it pours! We recently discovered four Western Quolls (Dasyurus geoffroii) on monitoring cameras at two of our midwest Western Australian reserves over the space of two weeks.

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BLOG 10/05/2021

Chuditch cam!

A Western Quoll has been picked up on monitoring cameras at Eurardy Reserve on Nhanda country in WA for the very first time.

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BUSHTRACKS 06/06/2019

Quoll refuge in the Kimberley

As Uunguu Rangers work to achieve the targets of their healthy country plan, they are also helping to maintain and improve habitat in one of Australia’s most important refuges, to the benefit of many animals.

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BLOG 28/02/2019

On the hunt for the Carnarvon quoll

In 2008, the Northern Quoll was detected by camera trap on Carnarvon Station Reserve for the first time. Since then, some effort was made to find more quolls on the reserve, but with no luck. A recent sighting in the neighbouring national park and the purchase of 20 quality camera traps for the reserve has prompted a renewed effort to find this nationally endangered marsupial.

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BLOG 04/08/2016

Kirstin studies bettongs & quolls

Kirstin Proft is enamoured by all things bettong. She's a PhD student from the University of Tasmania. She describes Bettongs as 'weird and wonderful things... charismatic little animals, each with their own personality'.

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BLOG 02/08/2016

Studying quolls, cats & devils

Rowena Hamer walks through the supermarket with a trolley full of Seafood Basket, a cheap cat food. While she claims she looks like a crazy cat lady, the PhD candidate insists that it's all in the name of research. Rowena is one of five researchers from the University of Tasmania investigating the animals that live in the Tasmanian Midlands, one of Bush Heritage's priority landscapes.

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BUSHTRACKS 20/03/2015

Quest for the northern quoll

High up on the rocky sandstone range of Carnarvon Station Reserve, a dozen cameras wait like silent sentinels. Activated by movement, they snap away at the furred, scaled and feathered creatures that happen by: busy little pebble mound mice, an inquisitive rock rat, slow-moving freckled monitors, dingoes and flighty bronze‑wing pigeons.

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BLOG 15/10/2014

Finding Northern Quolls

Let me introduce you to this cute little creature, this is the Northern Quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus). Unfortunately I can't reveal his whereabouts, not yet anyway, but Bush Heritage staff are working on it as part of an innovative new trial involving wildlife detection dogs.

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Native animal illustrations and colouring pencils.

Colourful creatures

Download free colouring-in pages featuring the threatened Australian animals protected on our various conservation reserves. A fantastic way to engage kids in learning about Australian animals and their habitats. Includes wombats, cockatoos, dunnarts, Malleefowl, bandicoots, Dingoes, Mulgara, quolls, skinks, turtles, Tasmanian Devils and many more.

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