Oral presentation- Open Session 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Cameras, collars and carnivores: Using contemporary techniques to inform the conservation of an endangered Australian predator, the spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus). (#377)

Trent Forge 1 , Guy Ballard 1 2 , Gerhard Koertner 1 , Peter Fleming 1 3 , Karl Vernes 1
  1. School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia
  2. Vertebrate Pest Research Unit, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Armidale, NSW, Australia
  3. Vertebrate Pest Research Unit, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Orange, NSW, Australia

Until relatively recently, quolls were part of a marsupial carnivore assemblage that covered the Australian continent. Following the extinctions of Thylacinus and Sarcophilus, the spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) became, and still is today, the largest marsupial carnivore extant on the Australian mainland. Since European settlement, however, anthropogenic habitat modification and competition from introduced predators contributed to significant declines in the species’ abundance and distribution, and it is now listed as Endangered. Effective conservation and recovery of quolls will be partly dependent upon sound monitoring, which is in turn reliant on knowledge of quoll ecology. Previously, monitoring protocols had barely developed beyond cage trapping or latrine surveys and knowledge of the species’ spatial ecology was coarse, having been derived mostly from VHF telemetry.

With an aim of bringing spotted-tailed quoll ecology and management into the 21st century, we sought to apply ‘modern’ technologies of camera trapping and GPS telemetry, during a study in the northern tablelands of New South Wales. Between 2013 and 2016, we developed and field-tested camera trap protocols for detecting and individually identifying spotted-tailed quolls. Ultimately, 95% of detected quolls could be identified to individual level. During the same period, we tracked male and female spotted-tailed quolls with GPS-VHF collars. In addition to describing the ranges and activities of quolls, we unexpectedly learned that many individuals, including females with denned litters, utilised cleared agricultural lands outside the conservation areas intended to protect them. The findings of this research are now being used to inform state-wide recovery actions for this iconic predator.