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The Spotted-tail Quoll

The Spotted-tail Quoll, Dasyurus maculatus, is the second largest of the carnivorous Marsupials alive today.  This is on the assumption that the Thylacine is extinct.

Size

The Spotted-tail Quoll is about the size of a domestic Cat, Felis catus, growing to about 4 kilograms (10 pounds).

They were given several common names based on perceived similarities to animals more familiar to the early European settlers.  They called these animals things like the Tiger Cat, the Native Cat and similar misleading names.

These names are misleading because they are not related to the cats.

Intelligence

When I was at school we were taught that the Quolls, or Native cats as the teacher called them, were of very low intelligence and were just killing machines, quite unlike our more familiar Pussy Cats.  I tended to accept this at the time, but it is a general rule that hunting animals need some intelligence.

People who have actually kept Quolls of various species say that their intelligence is similar to that of a domestic Cat.

It is illegal to keep Quolls and most other Australian native animals as pets, but people have kept rescued ones, and no doubt some have been kept as pets illegally. 

Diet

The Spotted-tail Quoll is the largest of the Quolls.  It will kill and eat things as big as a small Wallaby such as the Tasmanian Pademelon. They also eat carrion and a large variety of other things like Rats, Mice, insects, Frogs, snakes, lizards, and anything else they can find.

In Tasmania, they are a direct competitor to the Tasmanian Devil.  They have even been known to chase off Devils.

Cane Toads and Quolls

Cane Toads were introduced by the totally irresponsible government of the time.  They are now steadily spreading down the coast of Australia.

The problem for the native animals is that the Cane Toad is poisonous for most of its life.  It was predicted that the native animals would be unable to adapt.  For example, how could a Quoll learn not to bite a Cane Toad when the first bite will kill the Quoll?

There is some evidence that Quolls are adapting to this poisonous animal.

Threatened

The Spotted-tail Quoll is threatened on the mainland, but still doing well in Tasmania.  The main threats on Tasmania are the increasing populations of Foxes and Humans.

Spotted-tail Quolls as Pets

The Law

Keeping this animal as a pet is illegal.  However, people are getting increasing experience with keeping this animal.

The laws against the keeping of native animals as pets were designed to protect the animals.  However, the laws can be counter productive, and many people are questioning the law preventing the keeping of Native animals as pets if they are from captive bred populations.

Precedent

There is precedent for this approach.  For example, it is generally illegal to sell live native fish caught in the wild, but it can be quite legal to catch them and sell them.  I should add a note of caution here.  Many fish are subject to different rules about catching them.  Make sure you understand these before going fishing.

Another Similar Example

Before 1975, it was legal in South Australia to catch and sell or keep Macquarie Short Necked Turtles, Emydura macquarii.   In 1975, it was made illegal to catch any wild Turtle or Tortoise.  However, one fruit grower near the River Murray got a permit to catch 100 wild Macquarie Short Necked Turtles to try to start a captive breeding program.  His breeding program was very successful and he has been supplying the Pet industry round Australia since then.  His Turtles have now gone through at least three generations.

I think that his efforts have done more to protect this species than the legal prohibition on catching them.

The same sort of rule could be applied to the Spotted-tail Quoll.

Litter Trays

The Spotted-tail Quoll can be trained to use a litter tray in the same way as a Pussy Cat.

Nocturnal

The Spotted-tail Quoll is mostly nocturnal in the wild, but does come out in the daytime to bask in the sunlight.  This is similar to our more familiar Cats.

Hunting

This is an effective animal at controlling rats and mice.  A difference between them and Pussy Cats is that the Spotted-tail Quoll tends to kill them straight away while a cat will sometimes play with a mouse for a long time before killing it. 

Apart from being more humane to the little mouse, it reduces the chance of the rodent escaping inside the house and colonising the house.

Quolls, like cats, will climb trees and will eat birds (and sometimes their eggs) but they are certainly no worse for killing birds than Cats.

Affectionate

People who have kept Quolls say that they become just as affectionate towards Humans as Cats.

It’s Time

It is time for governments to reconsider the laws on keeping native animals as pets.



 
 
 
Photo taken at Queens Park, Ipswich, Queensland, Australia by Figaro
 
 
 
 
 
 
Photo taken by Dcoetzee near the window of the nocturnal animals exhibit at Sydney Wildlife World.