A slightly built animal with large sensitive ears, 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. It has two colour phases – ginger-brown or black, both with white spots on the body but not the tail.
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. Distinguished from the larger Spotted-tailed quoll by the absence of spots on its tail, only four toes on hindfoot, and a less bulky head shape.
It is found in a variety of habitats including dry sclerophyll forest, scrub, heathland, alpine areas, however, it seems to prefer dry grassland and forest bounded by agricultural land, particularly where pasture grubs are common. Home ranges vary between the sexes and are dependent on habitat quality. In fertile habitats, females restrict their movements to a few hundred metres surrounding their dens if prey is plentiful. Males will often travel over a kilometre in a night, familiarising themselves with local mates.
The Eastern quoll once inhabited across most of Southeast Australia from the east coast of South Australia through Victoria and up to the central coast of NSW. It is believed that the Eastern quoll became extinct on the mainland in 1963 due to the introduction of the red fox and feral cats, yet they survive in Tasmania without these predators.
Diet and Behaviour
The Eastern quoll is largely solitary and nocturnal. During the day they sleep in nests made under rocks in underground burrows or fallen logs. It hunts and scavenges, feeding largely on insects, but is also an opportunistic carnivore hunter taking live prey such as pests including 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 carrion near feeding Tasmanian devils. However, the main component of its diet is invertebrates, especially agricultural pests.
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 first young which can 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) and become independent. Within the first year they have reached sexual maturity and begin breeding. As in spotted-tail quolls, the mortality 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 increase.
- Competition with feral cats for prey that quolls eat
- Dog attacks
- Illegal poisoning or trapping by poultry owners