In the Big Backyard: Baby Quolls come out to play
Quolls are winter breeders, so by August, some babies have grown big enough to leave the pouch for short forays into the big wide world.
Female quolls make their dens in tree hollows, logs, rock crevasses and even among building materials. Baby quolls start life as tiny, rice-grain sized embryos which attach themselves to their mother’s nipples to drink her milk.
As they grow they become very playful - much like kittens - but never venture far from mum’s side. When they no longer fit in the pouch, they hitch a ride on her back as she forages for the grubs - a favourite food for smaller quolls. Depending on the species, quolls may spend up to three months in the pouch and are ready to leave home when they are around five months old.
There are four species of quolls and all have declined since European settlement: the spotted-tailed, eastern, western and northern quolls. The spotted-tail quoll or tiger quoll weighs up to five kilograms and is a formidable hunter, catching rabbits, birds, bandicoots, possums and even echidnas for its dinner.
The smaller eastern quoll was once widespread on the mainland but is now found only in Tasmania where thankfully it is still relatively common. The rare western quoll is found only in south west Australia, and the northern quoll, now under threat from cane toads, is found across northern Australia.
If your home is close to natural bushland, you may occasionally be visited by a quoll. Territorial by nature, male quolls roam far and wide during the breeding season, and each individual may claim a home territory of several undred hectares. Being nocturnal, a visit by a quoll will almost certainly be at night. He may perch in a big tree in your backyard. If you have chooks, he’ll be particularly interested in checking them out. Most likely he will be either a spotted-tail (on the mainland) or eastern quoll (if you live in Tasmania).
With your help: Many Eyes Make a Map
Backyard buddies have been helping save the endangered quoll in NSW by logging sightings of quolls with conservation scientists. A map of quoll-spotter records has been drawn showing quoll densities across the state. With the help of Foundation supporters, the density records are being analysed to create a plan for managing habitat in key quoll hotspots and creating corridors to link them up across the landscape.
DID YOU KNOW?If it ever becomes legal in Australia to keep native animals as pets, the eastern quoll will probably be one of the first to be domesticated. Many people have kept quolls as pets and while quolls are not as long-lived as cats or dogs, their owners say they readily co-habit with other domestic animals, love cuddles and patting, and can even be trained to use a litter tray.
TIP - QUOLL-PROOF YOUR HEN HOUSE Quolls have a particular taste for fresh chicken, so if you live in an area where quolls are common, it’s a good idea to remove the temptation. Then you can still enjoy quolls visiting your backyard without losing your supply of eggs!
- Make the henhouse secure: leave no gaps between pieces of netting, or between walls, roof and door - quolls are good climbers
- The walls should go down into the ground at least 15cm deep, otherwise quolls will dig underneath them and get into the pen.
- Normal chook wire will keep out spotted-tail quolls but not the smaller northern quolls - for these you’ll need smaller mesh.
- Lock the door at night. If your chook pen is not quoll-proof, at least provide a secure night roost for the chooks
Spot that Spotted Tailed Quoll!
Spotted-tailed Quolls breed from April to July, so some cute little Quoll babies could be around your area right now. These bubs are undertaking their very own migration by emerging from mum’s pouch.
Keep a look out around hollow trees, fallen logs, small caves, and in amongst large rocks and boulders. These are the best spots for Quolls to make their dens.
Three weeks after mating, up to six baby quolls are born. They remain snugly in mum’s pouch, feeding on her milk for seven weeks. By the ripe old age of 18 weeks, the babies are fully independent.
The Spotted-tailed Quoll dad will sometimes defend the nursery den and bring food to his mate while she cares for the offspring, but mum looks after everything else to do with the kids.
The beautiful Spotted-tailed Quoll has a distinctive look. With its pointy face and short legs, it looks a bit like a cross between a possum and a cat. It has reddy-brown fur with white spots on its back and long, long tail. A female’s tail can grow up to 42 cm, and a male’s can grow up to a whopping 55 cm!
Quolls are meat-eaters at the top of the food chain. They prey on many other species such as gliders, possums, smallwallabies, rats, birds, bandicoots, rabbits, insects and carrion. If Quolls live near you, it means that the local environment is in terrific condition. If it weren’t, it couldn’t provide all the Quolls’ dietary needs.
Spotted-tailed Quolls are the ‘jack-of-all-trades’ of the Australian animal world. They are nocturnal, but they are also sometimes seen hunting or basking in the sunlight during the daylight hours. They spend most of their time on the ground, but they can also expertly scamper up trees to raid possum and glider dens and birds nests. These quick-witted Quolls just won’t be limited!
DID YOU KNOW?The female Quoll’s pouch is only temporary - she only develops it during the breeding season each year.
TIPLeave fallen logs, hollow trees and rocks around your garden and local area as they make great homes for native animals, including the Spottedtailed Quoll.