If you want to attract the attention of a rare spotted-tailed quoll, chicken drumsticks and canned sardines might just do the trick. Our scientists are using these tasty quoll favourites along with motion and infrared sensor cameras in their search for Victoria’s largest, but rarely seen, carnivorous marsupial.

Given their low numbers and preferred nocturnal hunting habits, these quolls - Dasyurus maculatus – are very hard to detect. They live along Australia’s eastern seaboard, with only a small population found in Victoria, concentrated in East Gippsland. But individual quolls have been observed in other parts of the state as well, most recently in Kinglake and Mt Baw Baw.

As the name suggests, this cat-sized, reddish-brown marsupial has white spots along its body and tail. They are solitary animals that are more likely to dine on possums, gliders, rabbits and birds than drumsticks and tinned sardines.

To protect the spotted-tailed quoll, our staff conduct forest protection surveys at coupes scheduled for timber harvesting using ‘camera trapping techniques’. They set up motion and infrared sensor cameras, which operate round the clock for up to 28 days. The scent of fish and chicken is used to lure the quolls in front of the cameras for some candid snaps. An infra-red flash means photos can also be taken at night.

It’s a thorough technique that yields results in Victoria’s forests where quolls populations are present. However, the animal’s rarity means the rigorous detection methods don’t always equal detection success.

Thirty forest protection surveys have been conducted so far to find the spotted-tailed quoll, but quolls were not present in any of the survey areas. The search continues. Another 30 or so coupes will be surveyed in 2019-2020 for this elusive creature. We select these coupes through a prioritisation process that determines where we have the highest likelihood of finding one of these threatened species or communities. And we survey for other species at the same time.

Quoll expert, Dr Jenny Nelson from DELWP’s Arthur Rylah Institute says, “We know individual quolls exist across eastern Victoria, but we haven’t found populations of them in the areas covered by the Forest Protection Survey Program so far. However, that’s not surprising given their extreme rarity, the difficulty of detecting them, and their large home range – some animals have been known to cover six kilometres a night.”

The Forest Protection Survey Program is one of the tools we use to gather better data on threatened species in and around logging coupes. When threatened species are detected in areas scheduled for timber harvesting, steps are taken to protect both the species and their habitat. The survey program is part of the Office of the Conservation Regulator’s work to protect Victoria’s flora and fauna in areas of timber harvesting.

The program is an important part of the Victorian Government’s forest reforms, which includes modernising the state’s Regional Forest Agreements, improving legislation governing state forests and creating the Office of the Conservation Regulator.

Page last updated: 21/10/19