Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The chuditch is a solitary and nocturnal marsupial with a territorial attitude towards its home range, particularly the central core area of the range which is marked by many dens. Males and females do not meet outside of the May to July breeding season, although males territories, at about 15 km², overlap with several female ranges, at about three to four square kilometres each, and may also overlap with the peripheries of other male territories. Female home ranges do not overlap. A typical female territory might contain around 70 hollow log dens and 110 burrows. The chuditch sleeps in hollow logs, stone piles, and burrows dug both by themselves and left by other animals (3). Pregnant females will give birth to between two and six young per year after a gestation period of 17 to 18 days. The young marsupials move directly into the shallow pouch of their mother where they remain for a further eight to nine weeks (5). Following this period, they remain with their mother but are often left in the large burrow she constructed before giving birth, while she forages for herself and for her offspring. The young are independent at 18 weeks, leaving their mother's home range to find their own. At one year they are sexually mature and most will breed (3). The chuditch is essentially opportunistic, although fruit is not a common part of the diet. Small to medium sized mammals, lizards, frogs and large invertebrates are common prey in arid habitats, and insects, freshwater crustaceans, reptiles, birds and mammals are common prey in forest habitats. Carrion is also consumed, as are small fruits and flower-parts and the red pulp surrounding Zamia seeds (2) (4). The chuditch obtains all the liquid it requires from its diet, so rarely drinks and is able to remain active in temperatures as low as zero degrees Celsius (4).
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Description

This small cat-sized marsupial has soft, brown fur with white spotting along its lean body and down its short legs. The tail, which is up to half the total body length, is covered in long, black hairs. The pointed face is paler than the body, and has large eyes and rounded ears, trimmed with white fur (2) (3).
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Distribution

Range Description

The Western Quoll, or Chuditch, formerly occurred as two subspecies over approximately 70% of the Australian continent, being found in every mainland state and the Northern Territory; museum specimens from the east of Australia of D. geoffroii geoffroii are known from Peak Downs in eastern Queensland (Thomas 1888), the Liverpool plains of New South Wales (Gould 1840), and Mildura New South Wales (Kreft 1857). The western subspecies, D. g. fortis, is now restricted to the south-west of Western Australia, occurring at low densities throughout the Jarrah forest and more patchily in the drier woodlands and mallee shrublands of the central and southern Wheatbelt (Maxwell et al. 1996). The Julimar population is translocated.
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Geographic Range

Dasyurus geoffroii are mainly found in the southwest portion of Western Australia in the Jarrah forest, though their range once covered Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia (Johnson et al 1982, Menkhorst et al 1995).

Biogeographic Regions: australian (Native )

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Range

The chuditch was previously found in 70 percent of Australia, existing in every mainland state and the Northern Territory. It is now found only in the southwest corner of Western Australia (1) (3).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Dasyurus geoffroii usually sport a brown or black (rarer) coat with white spots along their lean, short-legged bodies. The face is paler than the rest of the fur while the ears are white-rimmed. Western quolls are roughly the size of a cat and have pointed facial features along with large eyes and rounded ears. They measure roughly 36 cm to 46 cm in body length, tail length ranges from 22 to 30 cm. Females are the smaller of the species.

Range mass: 900 to 1300 g.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Average basal metabolic rate: 2.991 W.

  • Collins, L. 1973. Monotremes and Marsupials: A Reference for Zoological Insitutions. City of Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.
  • Hyett, J., N. Shaw. 1980. Australian Marsupials: A Field Guide for New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia & Tasmania. Melbourne, Australia: Nelson.
  • Ride, W. 1970. A Guide to the Native Mammals of Australia. Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.
  • Massicot, P. 2000. "Animal Info - Western Native Cat" (On-line). Accessed February 19, 2001 at http://www.animalinfo.org/species/dasygeof.htm.
  • Mawson, C. 2000. "Chuditch" (On-line). Accessed February 19, 2001 at http://edsitewa.iinet.net.au/perthzoo/chuditch.html.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
The former wide range of the Western Quoll suggests the capability of occupying a variety of habitats, including deserts, woodlands, mallee shrublands, sclerophyll forests, and coastal areas. The species can be found in degraded areas. Western Quolls are generally nocturnal and solitary. Females construct burrows during pregnancy and maintain non-overlapping core areas in their home range (Maxwell et al. 1996). It is an opportunistic species that mainly eats invertebrates.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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The original habitat of western quolls was once quite large, including stretches of desert in the arid part of Central Australia. However due to various causes, D. geoffroii's territory has been reduced to the Jarrah forests in the southwest portion of South Australia. These areas consist of open forest, low open forest, woodland, and open shrub.

(Hyett et al 1980, Mawson 1996, Menkhorst et al 1995)

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; forest

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Having previously been present in much of Australia, the chuditch is known to be capable of living in many habitats including deserts, woodlands, eucalypt shrubland, open forests and coastal areas (1) (3).
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Their diet is rather diverse, ranging from large insects, to small vertebrates, to carrion. In arid habitats they have been found to eat mammals the size of rabbits, lizards, frogs, and invertebrates. In forested habitats they consume insects, freshwater crustaceans, reptiles, parrot-sized birds, and rabbit-sized mammals. In human-settled areas they will raid chicken coops and rubbish bins. Dasyurus geoffroii kills larger prey by biting the back of the head or neck. This carnivore is primarily a ground forager and nocturnal though it does occasionally climb trees.

(Hume 1999, Menkhorst et al 1995, Hyett et al 1980)

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Life History and Behavior

Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
3.0 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 6.2 years (captivity) Observations: In the wild, these animals live on average 2 years and a maximum of 5 years. One specimen in captivity lived for 6.2 years (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

Western quolls are seasonal breeders, mating between the months of May and July with a peak in June. Nnormal litter size ranges from 2 to 6 young per year, there have been cases where females produce more young than can be nurses. After a gestational period of 16 to 23 days, western quolls remain in their mother's shallow pouch for another seven to fifteen weeks until they outgrow the pouch. At this point they are left in the den while the female forages for food. Dasyurus geoffroii are independent at 18 weeks and weaned at 23 to 24 weeks, both the male and female are sexually mature at one year of age.

(Collins 1973, Hyett et al 1980, Massicot 2000, Mawson 1996, Menkhorst et al 1995, Ride 1970)

Average birth mass: 0.011 g.

Average gestation period: 16 days.

Average number of offspring: 6.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
365 days.

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
NT
Near Threatened

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Morris, K., Burbidge, A. & Hamilton, S.

Reviewer/s
Lamoreux, J. & Hilton-Taylor, C. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Near Threatened because there are still fewer than 10,000 individuals. It was declining in the wheat belt when last assessed, but translocations seem to have reversed this trend in the last few years despite a continued decline in a few populations. The species can survive in a fragmented landscape. There is fox control and better awareness among public. However, the stability of populations currently depends on active management. Threats to the species are still present, but at lower levels than in the past. Almost qualifies as threatened under criterion C.

History
  • 1996
    Vulnerable
  • 1994
    Endangered
    (Groombridge 1994)
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Much of western quoll's habitat has been destroyed through controlled and frequent burns as well as the use of pesticides by surrounding farmers. The introduction of predator species such as foxes, feral cats, and bird of preys by European settlers has also reduced their numbers. The new predators compete with western quoll for food and also prey upon them. There have been successful attempts to breed D. geoffroii in captivity and release them (Perth Zoo). Research on western quoll and their habitat have been conducted in hopes of finding a way to preserve the species in the wild. Various areas have passed acts in an attempt to conserve these marsupials but there are no statistics on their success. (Mawson 1996, Massicot 2000, Murdoch University 1997)

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened

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Status

The chuditch is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1). It is classified as “fauna that is rare or is likely to become extinct” under the Western Australian Wildlife Conservation Act and as Threatened (Vulnerable) under the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (2).
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Population

Population
The total population of Western Quolls is probably under 10,000 individuals. Some populations are under 100 individuals (as in Julimar). The species probably naturally occurs in small populations. The Western Quoll is very wide ranging. There is some fluctuation within populations. The species has suffered declines in the past, but due to active management and translocations, it seems to be recovering.

Western Quoll are known from 25 of the 57 fauna monitoring sites in the south-west of Western Australia, in 15 of these, the species has increased in abundance (as measured by trap success rates) or remained unchanged since fox control was implemented in 1996 (K. Morris pers. comm.). In the other 10 sites this species has declined; the reason for this is unclear at present, however, in at least one of these sites (Honeymoon Pool, Collie River) management practices have changed so that rubbish bins are no longer left at the picnic and camping sites (Western Quolls are well known scavengers) (K. Morris pers. comm.). A study into the impact of introduced predators on native fauna, including native predators such as the Western Quoll, is currently underway and reintroduction of captive breed D. g. fortis to former areas of its range in the arid zone of Western Australia is planned for the period 2009-2012 (K. Morris pers. comm.).

Whilst no substantiated evidence has been found to support the continued presence of the eastern subspecies D. g. geoffroii in Queensland, New South Wales or Victoria, there are three unconfirmed reports cited in the Threatened Species of Western New South Wales folder (1996) of this species from far western New South Wales. Specifically, these sighting are from 1996 at North of Broken Hill, in 1990 from ?Myall? NW of Tilpa, and ?Albermarle? between Broken Hill and Menindee in 1988. The latter record was chased out of a tree but escaped into a rabbit warren. Known and unconfirmed occurrences of D. maculatus from the central and far west of New South Wales make it hard to verify reports of D. geoffroii made by the public (as distinguishing the two species can be difficult). A live D. geoffroii was confiscated by New South Wales Department of Conservation and Climate change staff in 1983 from a chicken pen on a property in Central West New South Wales ? it was presumed to have been a captive individual/pet that had originated from a from Western Australia stock, however, its origins were never verified and there was no further consideration or exploration of the possibility of a wild population persisting in the area, despite being within its former range (S. Hamilton pers. comm.). It is generally accepted that mammal survey techniques in most areas of the former eastern range of D. g. geoffroii have not been targeted towards D. g. geoffroii, being neither adequate in magnitude or duration to detect the presence of this species if it does indeed persist at all.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
Habitat alteration due to clearing, grazing, and frequent wildfire (especially extensive, hot wildfires) may have detrimentally impacted the population; after fires, there is often an incursion of foxes, which can be detrimental. Competition for food and predation from cats and foxes, hunting, and poisoning have also contributed to its decline.
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The range of the chuditch has been reduced to just two percent of the size of its original range, due to habitat loss and degradation, as well as from increased predation and competition for food from introduced species such as foxes, feral cats, dingoes and birds of prey (3). The majority of habitat lost has been a result of clearing for farming, forestry and increasingly frequent controlled and wild fires (1). When it was more common, the chuditch was known to raid chicken coops and rubbish bins in settled areas, and consequently was seen as a pest and trapped or poisoned (1) (5).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Recovery objectives for this species (Maxwell et al. 1996) include: ensuring that the species persists within its present (1992) range, and increasing population numbers by expansion into former range.

Management actions completed or underway (Maxwell et al. 1996): habitat management research into the impact of prescribed burning and timber harvesting in the Jarrah forest is under way. Western Quoll habitat requirements are considered during rehabilitation after bauxite mining; impact of fox control programs completed research has shown that Western Quolls have benefited from fox control programs using 1080 meat baits. A broad-scale fox baiting program is now under way in the Jarrah forest; Western Quoll populations are being monitored at several sites within the Jarrah forest as part of the Department of Environment and Conservation (Western Australia) faunal management programs and as part of ongoing research into fox control, prescribed burning, and timber harvesting. A monitoring site in the Wheatbelt has not yet been established; distribution and requirements in the semi-arid zone increase over the next few years. An extensive survey for Western Quolls in the southern Wheatbelt failed to detect any. Populations may have continued to decline over the last 10 years and restocking of suitable areas is probably required; captive breeding program ongoing and successfully undertaken at Perth Zoo since 1989. Over 60 Western Quolls have been bred, with most being used for translocation to Julimar Conservation Park; a successful translocation has been undertaken at Julimar Conservation Park. Translocations to Wheatbelt reserves and Shark Bay have been proposed.

A study into the impact of introduced predators on native fauna, including native predators such as the Western Quoll is currently underway (K. Morris pers. comm.).
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Conservation

A recovery plan for the chuditch was prepared in 1994 and various conservation actions have been undertaken to attempt to increase chuditch numbers. Captive breeding programmes have been successful, and research into the chuditch and its habitat is ongoing (3). Introduced predator control, particularly of red foxes, has reduced predator numbers, and the maintenance of refuge sites in the Jarrah Forest where populations still exist should improve population counts. Populations are being monitored, and translocations to five sites in the southwest of Western Australia have improved chuditch numbers in this area. A re-assessment of the conservation status of the chuditch is currently underway.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

In rare instances western quoll may take domestic fowl.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Western quolls are important to the aboriginal people of Australia as a symbol in their mythology, as food, and for ceremonial purposes. Dasyurus geoffroii also serve as natural predators of insects, pests, and rabbits that plague some farmers.

(Johnson et al 1982, Ride 1970)

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Wikipedia

Western quoll

The western quoll (Dasyurus geoffroii) is also known as the chuditch (especially Western Australia, from Noongar djooditj[3]), atyelpe or chilpa (from Arrernte[4]), kuninka (from Western Desert language[5]), idnya (by the Adnyamathanha people of the Flinders Ranges[6]) and western native cat. It is a medium-sized predator and has a white-spotted brown coat and a long tail like its eastern and northern relatives. It differs from the closely related eastern quoll in possessing a first toe on the hind foot and a darker tail. It is classed as a near-threatened Australian dasyuromorph, whose distribution is now confined to south-western Western Australia.

Description[edit]

The western quoll is a medium-sized quoll coloured a rufous brown on its upper parts with white spots and a creamy white below. It has five toes on its hind feet and granular pads.[7]

The western quoll is a solitary, nocturnal predator which is mostly terrestrial, although it does climb trees. It has a diet of small vertebrates, carrion, arthropods, and freshwater crayfish, among other things. The breeding season is from April to July.[8]

The head and body average about 330 mm in length, with the tail averaging another 280 mm. An individual can weigh up to 2 kg, with males being slightly heavier.[9]

Behaviour[edit]

The western quoll moves swiftly on the ground, climbs efficiently, and may dig or occupy existing holes in the ground. Activity is greatest around dusk and dawn with the animal being crepuscular.

Habitat[edit]

The western quoll was formerly found throughout most of inland Australia, reaching areas of Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria. It is now restricted to the south-western corner of Western Australia, where it inhabits wet and dry sclerophyll forests and mallee.[8]

In April 2014 a trial re-introduction of western quoll to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia began.[6]

Taxonomy[edit]

The western quoll was described by John Gould in 1841, when it was still widespread throughout the continent. Its species name, geoffroii, refers to the prominent French naturalist Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, who named the genus Dasyurus in 1796. The species has sometimes been placed in the genus Dasyurinus.[7]

The western quoll is a member of the family Dasyuridae and is most closely related to the bronze quoll (Dasyurus spartacus), a recently described species from New Guinea that was for some time believed to be an outlying population of the western quoll.

Popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Groves, C. P. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M, eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 25. OCLC 62265494. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. 
  2. ^ Morris, K., Burbidge, A. & Hamilton, S. (2008). Dasyurus geoffroii. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 28 December 2008. Database entry includes justification for why this species is listed as near threatened
  3. ^ Rooney, Bernard (2011). Nyoongar Dictionary. Batchelor Press. p. 20. ISBN 9781741312331. 
  4. ^ Henderson, John; Henderson, Veronica (1994). Eastern and Central Arrernte to English Dictionary. IAD Press. p. 326. ISBN 0949659746. 
  5. ^ Goddard, Cliff (1996). Pitjantjatjara/Yakunytjatjara to English Dictionary. IAD Press. p. 48. ISBN 0949659916. 
  6. ^ a b Staight, Kerry (26 April 2014). "Helping Hand". Landline. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Serena, M.; Soderquist, T. (1995). "Western Quoll". In Strahan, Ronald. The Mammals of Australia. Reed Books. pp. 62–64. 
  8. ^ a b Menkhorst, Peter (2001). A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia. Oxford University Press. p. 48. 
  9. ^ "Chudditch (Western Quoll) (Dasyurus geoffroyi)". australianfauna.com. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  10. ^ "About the Chuditch". switchthefuture.com.au. Retrieved 2012-07-29. 
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