Man's encounter with rare Aussie species: 'Most beautiful creature I've ever photographed'

At first Steve thought an echidna was moving towards him through the long grass. It turned out to be something even more delightful!

An eastern quoll running through long grass in the sun at Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve on Sunday morning.
As Canberra's fog receded, a rare and unusual creature was spotted in the grass on Sunday morning. Source: Steve Allen

The “most beautiful creature” is how an Aussie photographer described the animal which darted towards him as the fog receded on Sunday morning. Steve Allen was walking through a sprawling wilderness north of Canberra when he spotted the dainty little eastern quoll.

It was unusual to see one during the day, but the night’s full moon had excited the area’s furry residents. “I could see something moving through the grass and I was sure it was going to be an echidna,” Steve told Yahoo News.

The eastern quoll at Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve in the distance.
The magical little creature was smaller than a domestic cat. Source: Steve Allen

Then the sun shone through the animal’s ears, illuminating its thick marbled veins and Steve realised he was looking at “something different”.

“It was just hunting around an open grassland area. I think it was only a juvenile. It was in close proximity to another one and it seemed to have no fear of humans,” he said.

As Steve stared at the carnivorous creature, he became fascinated by how different it looked to other marsupials. “It looked quite exotic with its spots and colouring. Koalas, wallabies and kangaroos are generally a fairly drab grey colour,” the 61-year-old said.

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Despite visiting Mulligans Flat twice a week for two years with his camera, it’s the first time Steve has spotted one of the rare creatures. And there’s a major reason that’s not surprising — they were driven to extinction on mainland Australia.

Foxes and cats are primarily what killed them off. But small colonies have since been introduced, and the animal he photographed only survives because it’s protected by over 22kms of fences that keep introduced predators out.

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A the eastern quoll closer up at Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve
Eastern quolls are ordinarily active at night, so Allen was excited to see one during the day. Source: Steve Allen

Australia has the worst mammalian extinction record in the world, and the nation is expected to use dozens more in the coming decades, primarily because of habitat loss and invasive species. In Western Australia, the northern quoll is threatened with extinction in the wild because of cane toads.

Amid the doom and gloom, Steve’s encounter with the eastern quoll has given him and others a glimmer of hope. Pictures he shared online have gone viral.

“Just amazing. What a magnificent little creature,” one person responded. “Priceless,” another person simply said. “Terrific shot! Great pose,” someone else commented.

“Probably the only good thing that's happened in the ACT,” another joked.

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