Spotted-Tail Quolls

By Lee-Anne McKinnon, UNE Discovery

On a recent camping trip to the stunning Washpool National Park we were captivated by the sight of a Spotted-Tail Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) visiting our campsite. Our little visitor arrived just on dark as we were preparing our campfire dinner. This national park is located east of Glen Innes in northern NSW and is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, and very close to the Gibraltar Range National Park.

Spotted-tail quolls were something that I had never seen in the wild so it was an absolute surprise and delight to have one visit and scamper around our campsite for around 15-20 minutes. It was very wary but curious to see what we were doing or I think more likely, scoping out what we were having for dinner.

The spotted-tail or tiger quoll is mainland Australia’s largest remaining carnivorous marsupial. They are about the size of a domestic cat but with shorter legs and a more pointed face. Their fur is rich red to dark brown and covered with white spots on the back which continue down the tail. The spotted tail distinguishes it from all other Australian mammals, including other quoll species, of which there are only four.  The spots may be indistinct on young animals. The average weight of an adult male is about 3.5 kilograms and an adult female about 2 kilograms.

Image credit:  Animalia – JJ Harrison

Image credit: Animalia – Michael J Fromholtz

Found in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania, the spotted-tail quoll lives in forests and bushlands. A mostly solitary, nocturnal creature, the spotted-tail quoll hunts during the night and shelters in hollow tree logs, rock crevices and caves during the day.

The spotted-tail quoll gives birth to young that are as tiny as a grain of rice. Even though miniature and underdeveloped at birth, these pups continue to grow in the female’s pouch for another 12 weeks, at which point they begin eating food that the mother brings into the pouch. While carrying her young, the female walks with her hind quarters elevated, so as not to drag her belly on the ground.

With the second strongest bite of any predatory mammal in the world, the spotted-tail quoll is only out-chomped by its close relative, the Tasmanian devil. A dedicated meat-lover, this spotty animal loves a good meal of greater glider, rabbit, long-nosed bandicoot, or ringtail possum.

Spotted-tail quolls can climb trees to escape a would-be predator and can put on quite a display if they feel threatened. Lowering their ears, crouching down low to the ground, and making a loud, high-pitched screeching sound when they are exposed to danger, the quoll will also hide in narrow den sites or cavities to stay out of harm’s way.

You’ll find a spotted-tail quoll in our very own UNE Natural History Museum and we featured this little marsupial a few year’s ago in our ‘mystery animal’ series during the unprecedented time when we were ‘Voyaging Online’.

I hope you also get to experience seeing some of our amazing, and often elusive, Australian fauna in the wild when you’re out and about. I can highly recommend the Washpool and Gibraltar Range National Parks for stunning scenery and a most beautiful place to immerse yourself in nature. Read more about these two NPs here: