Quoll patrol makes awesome find in Qld

·3-min read

Paul Revie was eight years old when a stocky, spotted creature with a powerful jaw brazenly leapt onto his family's picnic table in pursuit of a barbecued sausage.

It was the early 1990s and the schoolboy had no idea what kind of animal had just gatecrashed his day trip to southern Queensland's Main Range National Park.

When he got home and pulled out the encyclopedia, he soon realised he'd met Australia's version of a big cat: the spotted-tailed quoll, which can leap from trees like a leopard and kill much larger prey with a crushing bite to the back of the skull.

During subsequent visits, the family learned the sausage thief was well known to locals as a repeat offender and one of the more charismatic members of what was then a healthy population.

Much has changed in the years since then, with the species listed as endangered in 2004 having vanished from up to 90 per cent of its former range on the east coast.

Land clearing and exotic invaders such as cane toads and feral cats are to blame, and today distribution is patchy.

The species is primarily found in NSW, with some small populations hanging on in Queensland and Victoria.

In Main Range National Park, southwest of Brisbane, sightings had become a rarity long before the Black Summer bushfires of 2019/20 burnt almost 20,000 hectares of conservation land.

When one of the nuggety, cat-sized critters sidled up to a camera trap in the park a few months ago, Mr Revie, now an ecologist for the Quoll Society of Australia, was over the moon.

"It was only a few hundred metres from areas that were burnt really severely during Black Summer," he says.

"This was the third time in four years I had set up camera traps in that part of the park, knowing there'd been a reasonably healthy population there decades before.

"But this is the first time we saw one. It's so exciting to show they are still in Main Range."

Mr Revie has reason to hope a remnant population might be making a slow comeback in the area.

When he reported his sighting, the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service revealed a few other individuals had been caught on camera in 2019 and 2020 while sniffing around feral pig traps.

Mr Revie says pest eradication efforts will be crucial to give Main Range quolls a fighting chance of reasserting themselves.

To preserve the species, the Queensland Department of Environment and Science has been targeting feral cats and foxes in Main Range, Lamington and Mt Barney national parks.

Mr Revie has urged visitors to the national parks to report any quoll sightings, saying data on where they're living could be the thing that saves them.

"If we don't know where these threatened species are, then we've got no hope of protecting them and putting conservation strategies in place that will help them out," he says.

The quoll society's camera-trapping work in the three national parks is being funded by the Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants program.

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