November 10, 2015 Mammals No Comments

(Dasyurus hallucatus)

Also called the northern Australian native cat, northern native cat, satanellus, and njanmak (Mayali)


Northern quoll Photo © Eric Vanderduys

Northern quoll
Photo © Eric Vanderduys

The northern quoll is the smallest of four species of marsupial carnivore in the genus Dasyurus. The species was first described in 1842 and given the species name hallucatus, which means ‘notable first digit’. This refers to the short ‘thumb’ on the hindfoot, which aids in gripping and climbing.

Although they are the smallest of all quolls, they are the most aggressive.

North Queensland is the only place in Australia where the northern quoll and spotted-tailed quoll are confirmed to occur side-by-side.

The northern quoll previously occurred across most of the northern third of Australia, but its range has declined significantly (see Distribution below).


  • The coat is grey to brown with distinctive white spots. No spots on the tail
  • 5 toes on hindfoot, short hindfoot (< 57mm), ridged pads on the sole of the foot are a distinguishing feature
  • Body length 25­–37cm; tail length 20–35cm (usually less than 50cm total from nose to tail tip)
  • Weight 240–1120g (usually less than 1kg)
  • Males are larger than females

Northern quoll scat – twisted and pointed at one end


  • Scats
    • On conspicuous high places on rock piles or boulders, and at den entrances
    • Usually twisted and pointed at one end
    • Contain fragments of insects, bones, fur and feathers
    • Small, approximately 10mm x 30mm
  • Tracks
    • Hard to see in rocky and forested terrain that is the common habitat.
    • Tracks can be seen in the sand


  • Rocky areas are prime habitat for northern quolls.
  • A broad range of dry sclerophyll and dry vine thickets also provide suitable habitat.
  • Daytime den sites include rocky outcrops, rock piles, caves, tree hollows, hollow logs, termite mounds, goanna burrows, woodpiles and in human dwellings including ceilings, wall cavities and even inside couches.


Life history

Most northern quoll males die at the age of about 12 months, after the short, synchronised breeding period (this species is the largest animal to be semelparous – the males reproduce only once, usually followed by death. Fewer than 30 per cent of females survive into their 2nd year.

Northern Quolls Photo © Michael Snedic

  • Northern quolls breed once a year; late July – late August (in Queensland)
  • Up to 8 young born at a time. Begin dispersing during November and December
  • Timing of reproduction, although semelparous, varies between sites and years.
  • Opportunistic predators and scavengers on a range of food including fleshy fruit (figs, native grapes), insects and other invertebrates, amphibians, small reptiles, small birds and rodents, and carrion.
  • Has been known to eat biscuits from pet bowls, and even eat avocados from fruit bowls.
Home range
  • Territorial and solitary
  • Capable of long-range movements in relatively short periods.
  • Home ranges average around 35ha for both sexes during the non-breeding season. The males’ home range may increase to more than 100ha during the breeding period.

Northern Quoll Distribution

  • In Queensland, found from about Cooktown to Rockhampton with core populations in rocky and/or high rainfall areas.
  • Northern quolls also occur on a number of offshore islands in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.


(In order of how serious the threat is)

  1. Poisoned by eating cane toads – cane toads now occur throughout all of the quoll’s distribution in Queensland and are spreading westwards across the north of Australia.
  2. Predation and competition from feral predators.
  3. Inappropriate fire regimes that alter habitat and cover.
  4. Habitat loss.
  5. Habitat degradation by trampling and grazing.
  6. Weeds disadvantage quolls because they inhibit movements and hunting, and foster inappropriate fire regimes.
  7. Road deaths.
  8. Isolation makes populations more vulnerable to disease and local extinction (particularly given the males’ semelparous nature).


  • Queensland: Near Threatened (Nature Conservation Act 1992)
  • National: Endangered (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999)
  • IUCN: Endangered (2016 Red List)
Recovery plans
Current activities


Written by Wildlifeqld