The smallest of Australia’s quoll species, the northern quoll makes up for its small size with a pugnacious attitude. Once found from the Pilbara region in Western Australia around the Top End to Southeast Qld, its distribution has declined dramatically. Isolated populations now occur in the Pilbara, Kimberley, the Northern Territory and central Qld.
When it comes to dinner, northern quolls aren’t overly fussy, and will prey on invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and a variety of fruits. They tend to feed on whatever is most abundant at the time, so insects and spiders are popular during the tropical wet season, while vertebrates form the major part of the diet in the winter months.
Northern quolls use a variety of dens including tree hollows, rock crevices, termite mounds, goanna burrows and the roofs suburban homes. They normally change dens every night, and females may use over 50 different dens. Northern quolls live fast and die young, with wild males dying after an intense period of mating at only one year old, and females rarely make it through more than one breeding season.
Scientists are currently taking a novel approach to minimise the danger posed by cane toads to northern quolls in the NT and WA. Using a technique known as 'conditioned taste aversion', quolls are fed a small amount of toad meat spiked with a chemical that makes them sick. It is hoped they will then associate the unpleasant memory with the sight and smell of toads, avoiding them and teaching their offspring the same behaviour.
This technique has been successful with captive quolls, and hundreds of toad sausages are now being dispersed from helicopters and planes in northern Australia in a bid to save these belligerent little marsupials from extinction. 'Toad smart' quolls are also being released into Kakadu after undergoing aversion training to try stabilise the declining population in one of our most popular national parks.
Population Size – Unknown
Population Trend – Declining rapidly
Main Threats – Cane toads, feral cats
The largest mammal in the world to undergo male die-off, where all males in the population die after a single mating season, leaving the population composed entirely of females and young.