Dasyurus viverrinus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Dasyuromorphia Dasyuridae

Scientific Name: Dasyurus viverrinus (Shaw, 1800)
Common Name(s):
English Eastern Quoll
French Chat marsupial moucheté
Didelphis viverrina Shaw, 1800
Satanellus viverrinus (Shaw, 1800)

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A2b ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2014-03-15
Assessor(s): Burbidge, A.A. & Woinarski, J.
Reviewer(s): Hawkins, C.
Contributor(s): Driessen, M., Fancourt, B., Hocking, G., Johnson, C.N., Jones, M. & Menkhorst, P.

The Eastern Quoll is still widespread in Tasmania but spotlighting data demonstrate that its population size has declined by an estimated >50% over the past 10 years. Monitoring of subpopulations by trapping confirms a continuing decline, except that abundance remains relatively high on Bruny Island.

The Eastern Quoll may be detrimentally affected by feral cat predation (especially if cats have increased, or increase in the future, following the severe decline of the Tasmanian Devil Sarcophilus harrisii), and dogs, land-use changes and road mortality. A severe impact on this species is projected if the Red Fox were to become established in Tasmania, but it is unlikely that foxes will become abundant, and hence quolls substantially reduced, within a 10-year timeframe. 

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Eastern Quoll was previously widespread in mainland southeastern Australia including New South Wales (NSW NPWS 1993), Victoria (Menkhorst 1995) and eastern South Australia (Jones 2008). It became extinct on the mainland c. mid-1960s (Menkhorst 1995, Jones 2008, DPIPWE 2012), with sightings at Kew and Ivanhoe, Melbourne until the early 1960s, maybe later (P. Menkhorst pers. comm. 2014); the last confirmed mainland sighting being at Vaucluse (NSW) in 1963 (Dickman et al. 2001), and it is now restricted to Tasmania and Bruny Island (Tasmania). Rounsevell et al. (1991) recorded it in 30% of 10 km x 10 km grids in Tasmania and reported that it was not present in large tracts of rainforest. Jones et al. (2014) reported a high probability of occurrence over much of the eastern half and central-north coast of Tasmania, with areas of intermediate probability extending to about the eastern two-thirds of the island and to the north-west of Tasmania, with isolated populations in the southwest. Similar results were found using MaxEnt climate modelling (Johnson et al. 2012, Fancourt et al. 2015). Eastern Quoll distribution is associated with low to moderate mean annual rainfall and includes a range of more open habitats, including open grassland (including farmland), tussock grassland, grassy woodland, dry eucalypt forest, coastal scrub and alpine heathland (Jones and Rose 1996, Jones and Barmuta 2000). It tends to be absent from large tracts of wet eucalypt forest and rainforest, unless these are adjacent to open and tussock grassland and heath.
Countries occurrence:
Australia (New South Wales - Regionally Extinct, South Australia - Regionally Extinct, Tasmania, Victoria - Regionally Extinct)
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:2320Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:47000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):Yes
Number of Locations:2Continuing decline in number of locations:No
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


There is no robust assessment of population size, or that of individual subpopulations. Annual spotlight surveys, originally designed to monitor trends in the abundance of wallabies and possums, have been conducted in Tasmania between 1985 and 2011 by the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (Driessen and Hocking 1992, DPIPWE 2012, M. Driessen and G. Hocking pers. comm. 2014), with the number of transects increased to 132 following a review by Southwell and Fletcher (1990). Further transects were added between 1985 and 1990 with 150 transects being surveyed annually since 1990, with a core group of 42 transects being surveyed every year from 1975 to 2011; spotlighting methodology was standardized in 1985.

Analysis by Fancourt et al. (2013) of spotlight surveys from 147 sites across Tasmania revealed a 52% reduction in the number of Eastern Quoll sightings over the 10 years to 2009. Declines of 61-100% were observed in trapping surveys at three study sites compared with trapping conducted 18-31 years earlier. A reduction in trap success was recorded in five of six non-target surveys, with declines of 51-100% over 1-12 years. Recent spotlight surveys do not reveal any recovery (B. Fancourt pers. comm. 2014). While trapping surveys tend to confirm the decline on the Tasmanian mainland, numbers captured on Bruny Island increased between 2010 and 2012 (B. Fancourt pers. comm. 2014). However, this subpopulation is presumed to be far smaller than that on the Tasmanian mainland, meaning that the species’ overall population trend is likely to be ongoing decline.

Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:10000-12000Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:2Continuing decline in subpopulations:No
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

The Eastern Quoll is largely solitary and is nocturnal and only occasionally forages or basks during daylight. It is found in a variety of habitats including rainforest, heathland, alpine areas and scrub. However, it prefers dry grassland and forest mosaics which are bounded by agricultural land, particularly where pasture grubs are common (Jones et al. 2013, DPIPWE 2012). During the day, animals sleep in nests made under rocks, in underground burrows or fallen logs. The Eastern Quoll is an opportunistic carnivore that takes live prey and scavenges. It is an impressive hunter, taking mammals such as rabbits, mice and rats, and small elapid snakes and skinks. They sometimes scavenge morsels of food from around feeding Tasmanian Devils Sarcophilus harrisii. However, the main component of its diet at lower altitudes is invertebrates, especially agricultural pests such as the cockchafer beetle and corbie grub. In alpine areas, invertebrates form a small component of the diet; carrion and some fruits are also eaten (Blackhall 1980, Godsell 1983, Jones and Barmuta 1998, DPIPWE 2012).

Feral cats are well suited to taking quolls, as well as the prey that quolls eat. Predation and direct competition potentially force the Eastern Quoll from its natural habitat. Feral cat numbers may have increased in Tasmania coinciding with the rapid decline of the Tasmanian Devil, which are hypothesised to have depressed feral cat numbers (Fancourt 2011, Hollings 2012, Hollings et al. 2013). However, feral cats have been present in Tasmania for many decades and quolls have survived.

Dogs, road kills (Jones 1993), and, mostly in the past, illegal poisoning or trapping are additional causes of mortality, but population level effects are unknown. Red Foxes are a future threat. Jones et al. (2004) reported that Eastern Quolls lacked an appropriate anti-predator response to foxes, suggesting that they would be vulnerable to predation by foxes. The Red Fox may now be present in Tasmania (Berry et al. 2007, Sarre et al. 2012, DPIPWE 2013) and experience on mainland Australia shows that, if Red Foxes establish, fox predation will have a severe, possibly catastrophic impact on this species in the medium- to long-term.

Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:No
Generation Length (years):2
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The threatening processes that caused the decline and extinction of Eastern Quoll on the Australian mainland are unknown, but disease, together with predation by introduced feral cats (Felis catus) and Red Foxes (Vulpes vulpes) are the most likely causes (Peacock and Abbott 2014).

In Tasmania, the recent decline has been linked to a sustained period of unsuitable weather conditions over much of the species' distribution (Fancourt et al. 2015). Predation by feral cats is considered the most likely process preventing the species' recovery: juveniles are vulnerable to cat predation (Jones et al. 2014), and cat abundance might be increasing due to the decline of the Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) (Fancourt 2011). However, feral cats have been present in Tasmania for a long time and quolls have survived. 

There have been previous episodes of severe rates of mortality associated with disease (Wood Jones 1923, Guiler 1961, Green 2007) that may have made a significant contribution to local extinction on the mainland; some ongoing incidence and (mostly uncertain) impacts of diseases (e.g. toxoplasmosis; however, Fancourt et al. (2012) found toxoplasmosis does not appear to be contributing to recent population declines).

The Red Fox recently arrived in Tasmania; if it establishes, it is likely to be a major threat through predation. Minor threats include poisoning and trapping, predation by dogs and road mortality.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

1.       Maintain distribution and abundance

2.       Reduce feral cat predation

3.       Eradicate or effectively control Red Foxes in Tasmania.

4.       Should foxes become widely established, consider captive breeding as as precursor to translocation to an island or mainland 'island'.

5.       Monitoring to understand processes influencing Eastern Quoll abundance changes.

Citation: Burbidge, A.A. & Woinarski, J. 2016. Dasyurus viverrinus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T6296A21947190. . Downloaded on 19 September 2018.
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