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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 34(5)

Diet of a native carnivore, the spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus), before and after an intense wildfire

James P. Dawson A E, Andrew W. Claridge B, Barbara Triggs C, David J. Paull D

A Department of Environment and Climate Change, Biodiversity Conservation Section, Metropolitan Branch, PO Box 1967, Hurstville, NSW 2220, Australia.
B Department of Environment and Climate Change, Parks and Wildlife Group, Southern Branch, PO Box 2115, Queanbeyan, NSW 2620, Australia.
C ’Dead Finish’, via Genoa, Vic. 3891, Australia.
D School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences, University College, University of New South Wales, Australian Defence Force Academy, Northcott Drive, Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia.
E Corresponding author. Email: james.dawson@environment.nsw.gov.au
 
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Abstract

The relationship between the diet of the spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) and the abundance of its prey was investigated in rain-shadow woodland habitat in southern New South Wales for one year before and two years after a high-intensity, broad-scale wildfire. Scats were variously collected from quoll latrines and live-trapped animals during winter for each of the three years and analysed to determine prey items. Estimates of abundance of key ground-dwelling and arboreal medium-sized mammals were simultaneously obtained using plot-based survey techniques and spotlighting. Over the duration of the study, quoll diet was dominated by medium-sized mammals, particularly brushtail possums (Trichosurus spp.) and lagomorphs (rabbit and hare), followed by small and large-sized mammals. After the fire there was a shift in utilisation of food resources in response to significant changes in prey availability. Monitoring revealed that brushtail possums, lagomorphs and bandicoots were all significantly less abundant in the winter following the fire, and populations of lagomorphs, but not possums, then increased in the second winter after the fire. Quolls adapted to this by taking significantly more lagomorphs in each of the two years after the fire and by taking advantage of a short-term increase in the availability of carrion. The results of this study reaffirm that the spotted-tailed quoll is adaptable in its utilisation of available food, and that fires are not necessarily detrimental to the species and its prey base.

   
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