Chuditch (Dasyurus geoffroii)

Also known as: nyoongar, western quoll
  
French: Chat Marsupial De Geoffroy
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderDasyuromorphia
FamilyDasyuridae
GenusDasyurus (1)
SizeHead-body length – male: 31 – 40 cm (2)
Head-body length – female: 26 – 36 cm (2)
Tail length – male: 25 – 35 cm (2)
Tail length – female: 21 – 31 cm (2)
Weight – male: 0.7 – 2.0 kg (2)
Weight – female: 0.6 – 1.1 kg (2)

The chuditch is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1). It is classified as “fauna that is rare or is likely to become extinct” under the Western Australian Wildlife Conservation Act and as Threatened (Vulnerable) under the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (2).

A small cat-sized marsupial, the chuditch (Dasyurus geoffroii) has soft, brown fur with white spotting along its lean body and down its short legs. The tail, which is up to half the total body length, is covered in long, black hairs. The pointed face is paler than the body, and has large eyes and rounded ears, trimmed with white fur (2) (3).

The chuditch was previously found in 70 percent of Australia, existing in every mainland state and the Northern Territory. It is now found only in the southwest corner of Western Australia (1) (3).

Having previously been present in much of Australia, the chuditch is known to be capable of living in many habitats including deserts, woodlands, eucalypt shrubland, open forests and coastal areas (1) (3).

The chuditch is a solitary and nocturnal marsupial with a territorial attitude towards its home range, particularly the central core area of the range which is marked by many dens. Males and females do not meet outside of the May to July breeding season, although males territories, at about 15 square kilometres, overlap with several female ranges, at about three to four square kilometres each, and may also overlap with the peripheries of other male territories. Female home ranges do not overlap. A typical female territory might contain around 70 hollow log dens and 110 burrows. The chuditch sleeps in hollow logs, stone piles, and burrows dug both by themselves and left by other animals (3).

Pregnant females will give birth to between two and six young per year after a gestation period of 17 to 18 days. The young marsupials move directly into the shallow pouch of their mother where they remain for a further eight to nine weeks (5). Following this period, they remain with their mother but are often left in the large burrow she constructed before giving birth, while she forages for herself and for her offspring. The young are independent at 18 weeks, leaving their mother’s home range to find their own. At one year they are sexually mature and most will breed (3).

The chuditch is essentially opportunistic, although fruit is not a common part of the diet. Small to medium sized mammals, lizards, frogs and large invertebrates are common prey in arid habitats, and insects, freshwater crustaceans, reptiles, birds and mammals are common prey in forest habitats. Carrion is also consumed, as are small fruits and flower-parts and the red pulp surrounding Zamia seeds (2) (4). The chuditch obtains all the liquid it requires from its diet, so rarely drinks and is able to remain active in temperatures as low as zero degrees Celsius (4).

The range of the chuditch has been reduced to just two percent of the size of its original range, due to habitat loss and degradation, as well as from increased predation and competition for food from introduced species such as foxes, feral cats, dingoes and birds of prey (3). The majority of habitat lost has been a result of clearing for farming, forestry and increasingly frequent controlled and wild fires (1). When it was more common, the chuditch was known to raid chicken coops and rubbish bins in settled areas, and consequently was seen as a pest and trapped or poisoned (1) (5).

A recovery plan for the chuditch was prepared in 1994 and various conservation actions have been undertaken to attempt to increase chuditch numbers. Captive breeding programmes have been successful, and research into the chuditch and its habitat is ongoing (3). Introduced predator control, particularly of red foxes, has reduced predator numbers, and the maintenance of refuge sites in the Jarrah Forest where populations still exist should improve population counts. Populations are being monitored, and translocations to five sites in the southwest of Western Australia have improved chuditch numbers in this area. A re-assessment of the conservation status of the chuditch is currently underway.

For further information about different quoll species, including the chuditch: 

Information authenticated by Keith Morris, Manager, Biodiversity Conservation Group in the Science Division of the Government of Western Australia’s Department of Conservation and Land Management.

  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Nature Base (October, 2004)
    http://www.naturebase.net/component/option,com_docman/task,cat_view/gid,372/dir,ASC/order,name/Itemid,1288/limit,5/limitstart,5/
  3. Animal Diversity Web (October, 2004)
    http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Dasyurus_geoffroii.html
  4. Morris, K. (2005) Pers. comm.
  5. Animal Info (October, 2004)
    http://www.animalinfo.org/species/dasygeof.htm