Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats
RESEARCH ARTICLE

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 and 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

Wildlife Research 34(5) 342-351 https://doi.org/10.1071/WR05101
Submitted: 15 November 2005  Accepted: 19 July 2007   Published: 6 September 2007

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.


Acknowledgements

Funding for this research was provided by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (now part of the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC)) and the University of NSW@ADFA. Within the DECC, the research was strongly supported by Dr Tony Fleming, Michael Saxon and Pam O’Brien. Special thanks to Andrew Murray, Rob Poore and Greg Mifsud for great assistance with project planning and fieldwork. Thanks to Tony Stubbs for sharing his time and unparalelled knowledge of Byadbo, Phil Zylstra for assistance with fire impact mapping, and Roger Roach, Monica Ruibal, Dr Karen Firestone and Dr Doug Mills for assistance with fieldwork. Thanks to Michelle Dawson, Gordon Friend and two anonymous referees for valuable assistance and comment on the manuscript. This work was carried out under NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Animal Ethics Committee Approval No. 020214/05 and NPWS Section 120 Scientific Investigation Licence No’s. A3137 and S11103.


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