What is a Quoll?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A quoll is a marsupial native to Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania. There are several different subspecies of quoll, including the Western, Northern, Eastern, and New Guinean quolls. Of these, both the Eastern and the New Guinean are on the endangered species list because of habitat destruction.

A quoll is a marsupial native to Australia.
A quoll is a marsupial native to Australia.

All of the species are about the same size. Adults can measure between 10-30 inches (25.4-76.2 cm) in length. Their coats are brown or black spotted with white. The Eastern species is the only one with spots on its tail. Though these animals are sometimes called "jungle cats," most tend to look more like possums or coati than cats.

Quolls are carnivorous, and eat mostly mice, lizards and snakes. The New Guinean quoll is said to be able to kill and consume animals as large as itself. In Tasmania, the Eastern quoll competes with the Tasmanian devil for the same food sources. However, it's generally preferred to a Tasmanian devil since it is a quieter hunter. Both animals are efficient scavengers as well.

Most species live on the ground in burrows, though some may also be found in trees. Their tree-climbing activities are thought to have evolved with the landscapes in which they live. Since they are quite agile, they can climb trees easily to escape predators like large eagles.

Most quolls have a life expectancy of between four to six years. Upon reaching sexual maturity about a year after birth, they mate once yearly, and can produce litters of up to ten babies. However, it is rare for more than six of the babies, which are about the size of a rice grain, to survive, because the mother only has 6 teats. Those that make it to a teat will survive while other babies will not.

As a marsupial, these animals keep the tiny babies in a pouch until they are several months old. When old enough, the babies will venture out of the pouch. They can often be seen hitching a ride on the mother’s back as she journeys to find food.

Some people keep these animals as pets, although this is only legal in a few parts of Australia. The babies are easy to domesticate, and owners argue that they are much preferable to domestic cats, which have been responsible for the destruction of many native species. Adult quolls, conversely, are an excellent mousers, and can be an asset to farms because it keeps down non-native rodent species.

As cute as they seem, wild quolls are quite fierce and should never be approached. They have sharp teeth that can easily deliver a powerful bite. Most tend to shy away from humans. Increasing human encroachment, however, has brought humans into closer contact with these animals. Many are killed by automobiles, which can be extremely unfortunate in the case of mothers caring for infants. Infants will die without protection from the mother. The Eastern quoll was once thought to proliferate Australia, but there are now very few of them left, as most of their habitat has been destroyed and many have been accidentally killed by drivers.

Wildlife workers and Australian environmentalists are attempting to reintroduce the Eastern quoll to Australia, and as well to protect the few that still reside there. There are societies that monitor their numbers, and many educational materials available on this particular species.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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