Dasyurus maculatus


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Dasyurus maculatus
Species Authority: (Kerr, 1792)
Common Name/s:
English Spotted-tailed Quoll
French Chat Marsupial À Queue Tachetée
Taxonomic Notes: The subspecific classification of the mainland populations is currently under review. The Tasmanian population has also been proposed as being a distinct subspecies (Firestone et al. 1999).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor/s: Burnett, S. & Dickman, C.
Reviewer/s: Lamoreux, J. & Hilton-Taylor, C. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Listed as Near Threatened. The extent of occurrence is greater than 20,000 km2 and the species is estimated to number on the order of 20,000 mature individuals. There are probably ongoing population declines, though less than would be required to meet Criterion A, and some populations may need close monitoring.
1996 Vulnerable

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The Spotted-tailed Quoll is endemic to Australia, where it exists as two subspecies:

The subspecies Dasyurus maculatus maculatus was formerly distributed in south-eastern Queensland (as far north as Bundaberg and as far west as Chinchilla), eastern New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania (including some of the Bass Strait Islands (Maxwell et al. 1996). Maxwell et al. (1996) report that in south-east Queensland it has undergone a range contraction indicated to be in excess of 30% over the last 25 years and is now rare in most areas. Remaining populations are concentrated in the Blackall and Conondale Ranges, southern Darling Downs (Stanthorpe to Wallangarra), Main Range (Goomburra to Spicers Gap), Lamington Plateau and McPherson/Border Ranges (Springbrook to Mount Lindsay). This species is still extant in the Australian Capital Territory and eastern New South Wales, patchily distributed as far west as Warrumbungles National Park with a number of localized areas where reasonably abundant, mostly in wet forests. Most abundant populations believed to be in north-eastern New South Wales, where most commonly encountered on the north coast and ranges from the Hunter Valley, Taree, Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour and gorges and escarpments of the New England Tableland (Maxwell et al. 1996). In Victoria, it is now patchily distributed through the Eastern Highlands, East Gippsland, the Otway Range and the Mount Eccles - Lake Condah area. Records of the species since 1970 are concentrated in the upper Snowy River valley, the Otway Range, Mount Eccles National Park, the Rodger River - Errinundra Plateau area and around the Gippsland Lakes (Mansergh 1995). There is a recent (1991) record from the Murray Mallee near Swan Hill, however, no population has been located. In Tasmania Spotted-tailed Quoll is absent from islands and absent or rare in the central midlands and parts of the central east coast cleared for agriculture. Records (339) during the past 30 years show it is more frequently recorded in wet forests or scrub in the north-east highlands and in the west of the State (Rounsevell et al. 1991). It is extinct in South Australia.

The subspecies D. m. gracilis formerly occurred throughout the latitudinal range of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area of north Queensland. It is now apparently extinct from the Atherton and Evelyn Tablelands, and there are few sightings south of 17o45'S. This represents a decline in extent of occurrence of approximately 20% (Maxwell et al. 1996).
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The total population of Spotted-tailed Quolls is on the order of 20,000 mature individuals. Populations in south-east Queensland, western Victoria (Otways and far south-west of Victoria), and coastal areas of southern New South Wales are known to be declining. Populations in north-eastern Queensland are small, fragmented, and are <1,000 individuals (Burnett 2000). Tasmanian population numbers appear to be stable.

There is some evidence of a decline in distribution or in numbers in remaining suitable habitat (e.g., in the Otway Range), and the species is mostly uncommon (although it is present in good numbers in some areas, such as the Marengo and Chaelundi Forests).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: D. m. maculatus is found in forests, woodlands, wet forest alliance, rainforest, coastal heaths and coastal wet scrub, estuarine areas, and rocky headlands (Maxwell et al. 1996).

The optimum habitat for D. m. gracilis appears to be upland (>900 m asl) notophyll vine forest. Occurs in lower abundances in progressively more marginal habitat - in lower altitude notophyll and mesophyll habitats (Maxwell et al. 1996). Occasionally it occurs as a transient in wet and dry sclerophyll forest and in modified habitats (e.g., pastures.
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The reasons for decline of D. m. maculatus are a combination of habitat loss and fragmentation, possible disease at the beginning of the 20th century, competition with foxes and feral cats, predation by foxes and dogs, and impact of widespread strychnine baiting for dingoes. Most recently threats include non-target mortality from trapping and poisoning (there is a long-standing concern that quolls are being killed by the use of 1080 poisoning, but this has not been confirmed and is currently the focus of a number of investigative trials). Direct persecution is significant as they are attracted to caged birds and do not necessarily take flight when discovered. Estimated forest loss as a result of clearing within its former range in south-east Queensland is over 70%, with the majority of loss occurring over the last 20 years. The species uses a large number of den sites throughout the year and activities that reduce the number of den logs are likely to be significant. In Tasmania this taxon is naturally rare, possibly as a result of competition with D. viverrinus, Sarcophilus harrisii, and feral cats (Jones 1995). Road mortality could be a significant factor where high speed roads and good habitat coincide, as quolls are attracted to feed on the carcasses of road-killed animals (Maxwell et al. 1996).

D. m. gracilis is susceptible to factors which increase juvenile and/or adult mortality, or which otherwise decrease breeding success. Such factors may include habitat clearance, logging, introduced species including cane toad, and direct killing at chicken pens, at houses, and on roads (Maxwell et al. 1996).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Recovery objectives (Maxwell et al. 1996) for D. m. maculatus include: monitor populations; prevent further habitat loss and fragmentation; minimise any impact that 1080 baiting may be having on the species; undertake public education, especially of private land holders in rural areas, to reduce direct killing.

Population trends should be conducted using repetitive density estimates in a range of habitats across its distribution. Suveys are particularly needed in central and southern New South Wales to complement forest surveys in north-eastern areas. Cage trapping and hair tubing have proved fairly successful in detecting the species if more than one sampling period per site is undertaken. Additional studies should investigate the effects of competition from other predators including feral cats, foxes and dingoes/wild dogs. Habitat use and further study of dietary requirements are also a priority. In Tasmania, monitoring of population densities should be conducted in relation to forestry practices.

Management actions required for D. m. maculatus (Maxwell et al. 1996) include: determining the critical threatening processes and taking remedial actions; minimising habitat loss, establishing broad wildlife corridors between conservation areas and implement these in all land use plans; feral predator control in significant areas; minimising non-target kills from 1080 baiting in known habitat areas.

There have been several management actions completed or underway for D. m. maculatus (Maxwell et al. 1996). For Victoria, an Action Statement was prepared under Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. A study of diet and some home range estimates and bait take behaviour was completed (Belcher 1995). Experimental baiting trials are under way (commenced 1995 by DNRE Orbost). For Tasmania, a three-year study of diet, fine-scale habitat use and competition with the two sympatric dasyurid carnivores D. viverrinus and Sarcophilus harrisii was completed (Jones 1995; Jones and Rose 1996).

Maxwell et al. (1996) define recovery objectives for D. m. gracilis as being the identification of current distribution and limiting factors, and to conserve remaining populations. Much of the habitat of this subspecies is secure from large-scale disturbances as it lies within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. A three-year field study of the life-history strategy, ranging behaviour, feeding ecology, distribution and abundance, and conservation status of the species in north Queensland is in the report stage (Burnett 2000). A management profile for the species in State Forests in north Queensland has been prepared (Burnett 1995) and a report on the conservation status of the species has been presented to QDE (Burnett 1993) (Maxwell et al. 1996).

Management actions required for D. m. gracilis include continued monitoring of quoll populations; additional survey work in order to locate other quoll populations and to test more rigorously for population distributional limits; experimental removal of cane toads from roads within the optimum habitat of D. m. gracilis and monitoring of effects if any on quoll populations; community extension work in areas where quolls have been, and continue to be, displaced (Maxwell et al. 1996).
Citation: Burnett, S. & Dickman, C. 2008. Dasyurus maculatus. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 20 April 2014.
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