Male eastern quolls are about the size of a small domestic cat averaging 60 cm in length and 1.3 kg in weight; females are slightly smaller. They have thick, soft fur that is coloured fawn, brown or black. Small white spots cover the body except for the bushy tail which may have a white tip. Compared to the related spotted-tail quoll, the eastern quoll is slightly built with a pointed muzzle.
The eastern quoll (or native cat, as it is sometimes called) has two colour phases -- ginger-brown or black, both with white spots on the body but not the tail.
Distribution and habitat
Eastern quolls once occured on mainland Australia, with the last sighting occuring in the Sydney suburb of Vaucluse in the early 1960s. They are now considered extinct on the mainland, although some recent sightings in the New England region of northern New South Wales suggest that the species may still survive.
The species, fortunately, is widespread and locally common in Tasmania. It is found in a variety of habitats including rainforest, heathland, alpine areas and scrub. However, it seems to prefer dry grassland and forest mosaics which are bounded by agricultural land, particularly where pasture grubs are common.
Eastern quolls can be seen in all but the Narawntapu Range National Park and the Arthur River area. They are common in Mt. Field National Park.
Behaviour and diet
The eastern quoll is largely solitary. It hunts and scavenges, feeding largely on insects.
Eastern quolls are nocturnal and only occasionally forage or bask during daylight. During the day they sleep in nests made under rocks in underground burrows or fallen logs.
Like the spotted-tail quoll, the eastern quoll is an opportunistic carnivore that takes live prey and scavenges. The eastern quoll is an impressive hunter, taking small mammals such as rabbits, mice and rats. They can also be quite bold when competing with the larger Tasmanian devil for food. Eastern quolls sometimes scavenge morsels of food from around feeding devils. However, the main component of its diet is invertebrates, especially agricultural pests such as the cockchafer beetle and corbie grub. Carrion and some fruits are also eaten.
Breeding occurs in early winter. After a gestation period of 21 days, females give birth to up to 30 young. However, the pouch contains only six teats, limiting survival to the young which can first attach themselves to these teats. After about 10 weeks the young are left in grass-lined dens located in burrows or hollow logs leaving the female free to hunt and forage. If the female needs to move to a different den she carries the young along on her back.
Towards the end of November, when the young are 18 to 20 weeks old, they are weaned (stop suckling) and become independent of the female. Within the first year they have reached sexual maturity and begin breeding. As in spotted-tail quolls, the death rate of juveniles is low while they are in the care of their mother. However, after weaning they tend to move away and deaths of these small, inexperienced quolls greatly increase.
The eastern quoll is classed as vulnerable under federal legislation, but is not listed under Tasmanian state legislation. Further details can be found at our threatened species site.
Feral cats are well suited to taking prey that quolls eat, the direct competition potentially forcing the eastern quoll from its habitat. Dogs, roadkills from collision with vehicles, and illegal poisoning or trapping by poultry owners are also causing declines. The species is wholly protected by law.