Population Size – Less than 12,000
Population Trend – Decreasing
Main Threats – Foxes, Cats, Vehicle strike
Regardless of the colour of their parents, eastern quoll juveniles may be either a light fawn or jet-black colour. It is not unusual for the same litter to be half fawn and half black, even if their parents are both fawn or both black.
Eastern quolls are an impressive hunter for their size, eating rabbits, mice, rats, small snakes and birds. They have become adept at foraging in farmland, and can even hear the sound of grubs underground before digging them up and devouring them. With typical quoll cheekiness, they will rush between feasting Tasmanian devils to steal morsels of food, running the risk of becoming devil dessert.
Eastern quolls are mostly nocturnal, but are sometimes active on overcast days. During really cold periods they can enter torpor, a type of short-term hibernation which slows down all body functions to save energy. In winter, females give birth to 30 young, who must race to become the first to attach themselves to the six teats, an early test of their strength and stamina.
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With their beautiful fawn or jet-black coats, eastern quolls are perhaps the cutest and daintiest of all quolls. Males are the size of a small domestic cat, while females are slightly smaller. Once common in NSW, Victoria, and SA, the last eastern quoll on the mainland disappeared in the 1960s, although there were unconfirmed sightings in Barrington Tops National Park in 1989. They are now restricted to Tasmania, which they share with spotted-tailed quolls and Tasmanian devils.
After being extinct on the mainland for more than 50 years, eastern quolls are finally making their triumphant return. Captive breeding programs at a number of Tasmanian zoos have allowed eastern quolls to be reintroduced to a predator-proof sanctuary at Mulligan’s Flat near Canberra. Several of these cheeky quolls have already staged a prison break and had to be captured and returned to the sanctuary.
In an even more ambitious plan, eastern quolls were released into Booderee National Park near Jervis Bay in 2018. Despite early losses reducing the population to 4 individuals, breeding did take place. These babies were the first eastern quolls born outside an enclosure on the Australian mainland for over 50 years! Further releases to boost the population will take place over the next few years.