A huge thank you from Wildlife Queensland’s Quoll Seekers Network (QSN) goes to all who contributed recently to the three-day search for the possible denning site of orphaned young spotted-tailed quolls in the Southern Downs. Though there was no fairy tale ending to the effort, the generosity and concern shown for our special wildlife by all involved was inspiring.
Ecosure Project Manager Avery Keller’s discovery on 11 October of a road-killed lactating female spotted-tailed quoll on the New England Highway south of Warwick, was the trigger for the search. As female spotted-tailed quolls have litters only twice in their lifetime, and with this little girl’s demise being from human – not natural – causes, it would have been tragic not to have made an attempt at locating her babies, despite it seeming like a needle-in-a-haystack exercise. Quoll detection dogs were considered the only possible means of positively identifying a denning site, despite having limitations: potential sites must still be identified by human means beforehand.
Craig Magnussen from Southern Downs Regional Council facilitated contact with landholders in the vicinity of the roadkill, and reconnaissance work by Quoll Seekers Jim and Ivell Whyte within a one-kilometre radius of the roadkill began on 14 October. Potential den sites were investigated and recorded if promising, to be later checked by detection dog, Kuna, and handler Amanda Hancock using a specimen of hide from Avery’s quoll as search odour. It was the final sight checked the following day, and the one considered most promising by Quoll Seekers, where Kuna indicated positively for either quoll scats or animal.
Although not considered likely to bring a result in the single night available, a camera and live traps were set at the den site. It was hoped that even if traps or bait (hung low for babies) weren’t approached, the camera might capture an image of any animal exiting the den. This was not to be, however three scats were found at the den entrance and forwarded to Dr Scott Burnett of University of the Sunshine Coast for DNA analysis and comparison with a further piece of frozen hide.
A baited camera trap has been deployed at the den site and a second to monitor the entire log pile, to gain further possible information regarding den usage. Chicken wings and legs have been left under cover – just on the off-chance – and results from the camera will be passed on after retrieval. Finally, a consoling hug from Jim to Cath from Ecosure before departing the property, empty handed but full of gratitude for the collaborative effort for wildlife that it was.
Special thanks to those who responded so incredibly quickly to the plea for financial assistance to bring the Saddler Springs quoll detection dog team from Cooran. Particular mention goes to Ecosure Director Phil Shaw, and to Wildlife Queensland Senior Projects Officer, Matt Cecil, who was on leave at the time. Jess Bracks also deserves much credit for her untiring efforts in securing the search.
by Ivell Whyte, Quoll Seekers Network Community Liaison Officer