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Species profile—Dasyurus hallucatus (northern quoll)


Animalia (animals) → Mammalia (mammals) → Dasyuridae (dasyurids) → Dasyurus hallucatus (northern quoll)

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Species details

Animalia (animals)
Mammalia (mammals)
Dasyuridae (dasyurids)
Scientific name
Dasyurus hallucatus Gould, 1842
Common name
northern quoll
Type reference
Gould, J. (1842). Characters of a new species of Perameles, and a new species of Dasyurus. Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond. 1842: 41-42
WildNet taxon ID
Alternate name(s)
little northern native cat
north Australian native cat
Nature Conservation Act 1992 (NCA) status
Least concern
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC) status
Conservation significant
Pest status
Agricultural Pest
The northern quoll is the smallest of the quolls, with males larger than females (male: head-body 270-370mm, tail 222-345mm, weight 340-1120g; female: head-body 249-310mm, tail 202-300mm, weight 240-690g). Body colour varies from grey-brown to brown, with large white spots on its head, back and occasionally the base of the tail. The tail is sparsely furred, with a dark brown to black tip lacking spots. Its chest and belly are cream or white in colour. It has a pointed face and large, prominent eyes and ears. The hindfeet have five toes and striated (ridged) pads that assist in climbing. (Menkhorst & Knight 2001; Oakwood 2008).
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The northern quoll once occurred continuously across northern Australia, from the Pilbara, Western Australia to the Top End of the Northern Territory and through the Gulf Country and Cape York Peninsula to the Main Range area, south-east Queensland. The present distribution of the northern quoll has contracted throughout its former range and in Queensland it is now fragmented into a number of populations with the highest densities found in Cape York, the Atherton Tablelands and the Mackay-Whitsunday area. Occasionally there are records of northern quolls as far south as Maleny on the Sunshine Coast hinterland. (Watt 1993; Braithwaite and Griffiths 1994; Maxwell et al. 1996).
Distributional limits
-10.4, 141.6333333
-28, 153
Range derivation
Range derived from extent of the taxon's confirmed records
The northern quoll occurs in a range of habitats, including open dry sclerophyll forest and woodland, riparian woodland, low dry vine thicket, the margins of notophyll vineforest, mangroves, sugarcane farms and in urban areas. They are most abundant in hilly or rocky areas close to permanent water. Quolls are likely to disappear in areas where less than 50-70% woodland remains within a 4km radius. (Begg 1981; Braithwaite & Griffiths 1994; Pollock 1999; Rankmore & Price 2004; Oakwood 2008).
Home range
Home range highly variable for both females (1.8-443ha) and males (5-1109ha), overlapping between and within sexes. Males disperse further than females. (Begg 1981; King 1989; Schmitt et al. 1989; Braithwaite & Griffiths 1994; Oakwood 2002).
The northern quoll is nocturnal to crepuscular (active at night & twilight), sheltering in tree hollows, timber piles or rock crevices during the day. They are usually solitary, except when mating or occasionally when foraging. This species is equally at home on the ground or when climbing in trees. It is known for its aggressive behaviour when disturbed. (Pollock 1999; Menkhorst & Knight 2001; Oakwood 2002; 2008).
Northern quolls have only one breeding season per year, which begins as early as May. Females lack a true pouch, after mating a flap of skin develops around the 5-9 teats to contain the young. Pups are born from June-September after a short gestation period of less than a month. There is an average of 6-7 per litter (range 1-17), and they are carried by the mother for another 8 to 10 weeks. After this time the young detach from the teats and are suckled in a nest until they are five months old. Up to one-third of a litter may die during this period. The surviving young have been observed still suckling from the mother on a stretched teat while clinging to her back. Adults become sexually mature at 12 months. Females may live for 2-3 years, but only wean 1-2 litters. Males die soon after mating, rarely living for more than a year. (Begg 1981; King 1989; Schmitt et al. 1989; Strahan 1992; Oakwood 2000; Oakwood et al. 2001; Nelson & Gemmell 2003; Oakwood 2008).
Their diet is opportunistic, consisting mainly of invertebrates (grasshoppers, beetles, termites, crustaceans) but also including a variety of vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs) and even fruit or nectar. They are also known to feed on carrion and human refuse. (Pollock 1999; Oakwood 2008).
Predators include dingoes, dogs, feral cats, snakes, owls and kites (Pollock 1999; Oakwood 2000; 2008).
Parasites and pathogens
The ectoparasites of northern quolls include ticks, mites, lice and fleas. Reported endoparasites for this species include trematodes, cestodes, nematodes, pentastomes and protozoans. (Oakwood & Spratt 2000).
Threatening processes
Known : None confirmed.
Suspected : 1. Degradation of riparian vegetation by stock and feral herbivores (Braithwaite & Griffiths 1994).
2. Destruction of habitat/fragmentation for urban and agricultural development (Maxwell et al. 1996; Rankmore & Price 2004).
3. Impact of introduced predators, i.e. predation by cats and dogs (Maxwell et al. 1996; Pollock 1999).
4. Poisoning from feeding on toxic Cane Toads (Burnett 1997).
5. Disease (toxoplasmosis) transmitted by feral cats (Maxwell et al. 1996 but see Oakwood & Pritchard 1999).
6. Loss of resources (food/ground cover) and increased predation due to inappropriate fire regime (Oakwood 2000; Woinarski et al. 2001).
Studies of parasites in Northern Quolls suggest that parasitism is not a major factor contributing to decline in northern Australia (Oakwood & Spratt 2000).
Status notes
No information available on population size. Has undergone considerable range reduction (75%) since European settlement and is considered a priority taxon in the South-east Queensland, Brigalow Belt South and Central Queensland Coast bioregions (Watt 1993; Braithwaite & Griffiths 1994; Maxwell et al. 1996; BBS Expert Panel 2002; SEQ Expert Panel 2002; Cali 2003).
Management documents
Taxon Summary for the Northern Quoll.
Maxwell, S., Burbidge, A. & Morris, K. (1996) (Eds). The 1996 Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes. Wildlife Australia : Canberra.
Management recommendations
More reservation required - western dry forests and habitats in Sunshine Coast hinterland, and may require off-reserve action given the number of records from non-National Park/State Forest tenures.
The Northern Quoll can be percieved as a problem species, in respect to aviary attacks, especially fowl species, and other captive bred species. Quolls will extricate prey items by pulling the prey through the wire netting of cages etc.

Majority of above notes taken from:
McFarland, D., Haseler, M. & Venz, M. (1998). Brigalow Belt South Bioregion: Preliminary Listing Of Priority And Secondary Assessment Fauna. Queensland Department Of Environment & Heritage: Brisbane.
McFarland, D.C. (2007). Taxon Profiles Version 2.0: Threatened And Priority Fauna Taxa In Queensland: Biology And Distribution. Queensland Environmental Protection Agency: Brisbane.

Contributors: David McFarland 25/03/1999; 26/10/2007; Danielle Hansen 24/07/2008; Wayne Martin 17/11/2008.

BBS Expert Panel. (2002). Brigalow Belt South Fauna Expert Panel Report. Environmental Protection Agency: Toowoomba.
Begg, R.J. (1981). The small mammals of Little Nourlangie Rock, N.T. III. Ecology of Dasyurus hallucatus, the Northern Quoll (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae). Aust. Wildl. Res. 8, 73-85.
Braithwaite, R.W. & Griffiths, A.D. (1994). Demographic variation and range contraction in the Northern Quoll Dasyurus hallucatus (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae). Wildl. Res. 21, 203-217.
Burnett, S. (1997). Colonizing Cane Toads cause population declines in native predators: reliable anecdotal information and management implications. Pac. Cons. Biol. 3, 65-72.
Cali, M. (2003). Priority Fauna Taxa for Central Queensland Coast Bioregion. Digital list, Environmental Protection Agency: Mackay.
King, D.R. (1989). An assessment of the hazard posed to Northern Quolls (Dasyurus hallucatus) by aerial baiting with 1080 to control Dingoes. Aust. Wildl. Res. 16, 569-574.
Maxwell, S., Burbidge, A. & Morris, K. (1996) (Eds). The 1996 Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes. Wildlife Australia: Canberra.
Menkhorst, P. & Knight, F. (2001). A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia. Oxford University Press: South Melbourne.
Nelson, J.E. & Gemmell, R.T. (2003). Birth in the northern quoll, Dasyurus hallucatus (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae). Aust. J. Zool. 51, 187-198.
Oakwood, M. (2000). Reproduction and demography of the northern quoll, Dasyurus hallucatus, in the lowland savanna of northern Australia. Aust. J. Zool. 48, 519-539.
Oakwood, M. (2002). Spatial and social organisation of a carnivorous marsupial Dasyurus hallucatus (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae). J. Zool. (Lond.) 257, 237-248.
Oakwood, M. (2008). Northern quoll Dasyurus hallucatus Gould, 1842. In: The Mammals of Australia. Third edition. (eds S. Van Dyck & R. Strahan), pp. 57-59. Reed New Holland: Sydney.
Oakwood, M., Bradley, A.J. & Cockburn, A. (2001). Semelparity in a large marsupial. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B Biol. Sci. 268, 407-411.
Oakwood, M. & Pritchard, D. (1999). Little evidence of toxoplasmosis in a declining species, the northern quoll, (Dasyurus hallucatus). Wildl. Res. 26, 329-333.
Oakwood, M. & Spratt, D.M. (2000). Parasites of the northern quoll, Dasyurus hallucatus (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae) in tropical savanna, Northern Territory. Aust. J. Zool. 48, 79-90.
Pollock, A.B. (1999). Notes on the status, distribution and diet of Northern Quoll Dasyurus hallucatus in the Mackay-Bowen area, mideastern Queensland. Aust. Zool. 31, 388-395.
Rankmore, B.R. & Price, O.F. (2004). Effects of habitat fragmentation on the vertebrate fauna of tropical woodlands, Northern Territory. In: Conservation of Australia's Forest Fauna. (Ed. Lunney, D.), pp. 452-473. Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales: Mosman.
SEQ Expert Panel. (2002). Southeast Queensland Fauna Expert Panel Report. Environmental Protection Agency: Brisbane.
Schmitt, L.H., Bradley, A.J., Kemper, C.M., Kitchener, D.J., Humphreys, W.F. & How, R.A. (1989). Ecology and physiology of the northern quoll, Dasyurus hallucatus (Marsupialia, Dasyuridae), at Mitchell Plateau, Kimberley, Western Australia. J. Zool. (Lond.) 217, 539-558.
Strahan, R. (1992). Encyclopedia of Australian Animals: Mammals. Angus & Robertson: Pymble.
Watt, A. (1993). Conservation Status and Draft Management Plan for Dasyurus maculatus and D. hallucatus in Southern Queensland. Queensland Department of Environment & Heritage: Brisbane.
Woinarski, J.C.Z., Milne, D.J. & Wanganeen, G. (2001). Changes in mammal populations in relatively intact landscapes of Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia. Aust. Ecol. 26, 360-370.
Profile author
David McFarland (17/11/2008)

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This profile data is sourced from the QLD Wildlife Data API using the Get species by ID function used under CC-By 4.0.

This information is sourced from the WildNet database managed by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science.

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Last updated
20 May 2024