The Tasmanian devil
, spotted-tail quoll and eastern quoll are among the world's largest marsupial carnivores. These species occasionally come into conflict with landowners. The main concerns about these species are raids on livestock and their occasional presence under houses. However, there are solutions to these problems.
Livestock - Problems and Solutions
Although most landowners accept that devils seen foraging around farms are mostly scavenging for carrion, they are occasionally accused of taking livestock. The usual instances are:
Health problems on properties is a prime causative factor for the loss of lambs through predations by devils. Although opinions are divided on whether devils will take healthy lambs, we believe this is not usual. Most land managers agree that even if lambs are taken, they are usually the weaker ones, especially of twins. Intense management aimed at rescuing these lambs may be so disruptive to the flock that it is better to accept the risk of some losses of weak animals to devils. Different types of sheep have vastly different capabilities as mothers, and this should be taken more into account. Lambs are most vulnerable in the first three weeks after birth.
Cast or very weak sheep
Devils may occasionally attack cast or very weak animals. If farmers are worried about such attacks, effort should be made to prevent casting by changing shearing timing and/or paying greater attention to animal health. This problem also requires realistic judgement of the viability of such sheep.
If devils are common, small or sick penned animals may be at risk, especially if they cannot stand. They need to be properly penned. Dogs may be a useful deterrent in these cases.
Although they are not especially good diggers and can't jump, devils are very powerful and can push through a poorly built pen. A fence that is higher than 1 m, well footed and made of palings, heavy wire mesh or corrugated iron is usually adequate. However, young devils are fair climbers and a "floppy top" or electric wire may have to be added to the outside top of a mesh fence to keep these youngsters out.
Quolls cause no problems for sheep or lambs but can be a great nuisance to poultry. Spotted-tailed quolls are excellent jumpers and climbers and can get through surprisingly small gaps as can eastern quolls. The best protection against these persistent predators is a 1.5 m high, well-footed, paling, corrugated iron or mesh pen; the latter with a roof, "floppy-top" or electric wire. Free range poultry can be provided with protected perches, e.g. a tree with no branches within 1.5 m of the ground and a tin collar around the 1.5 m mark.
One cannot reasonably expect to protect free-range
poultry that have no high perches. Free-range poultry can also be given
access to devil and quoll-proof coops.
This shed is made from tin or well fitting, vertical palings and has a footing. The idea is that chooks can reach the entrance from the perch, whereas devils and quolls cannot.
Devils Around the Home
Occasionally devils and quolls take up residence and breed under houses. Nearby livestock and pets are rarely harmed, however the noise and mess may be a bit disruptive for some.
If you have any concerns about devils or quolls near your home, contact the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment on 03 6165 4305. They can give you advice, particularly about how to seal entrances under your house without putting wildlife at risk.
In the past, devil and quoll populations were mainly controlled by competition for food. Both populations naturally swell dramatically each summer as the juveniles become independent; during this dispersal period sightings of devils and quolls increase. This population swell is a short-lived phenomenon as up to 60 per cent will die within the first few months due to competition for food. We are also observing an increase in juvenile roadkill deaths during this dispersal period.
More recently, devil numbers have dropped dramatically following the identification of Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD)
Devil and Quoll Conservation
Quolls and Tasmanian devils are wholly protected by law under Tasmania's Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 (TSP) and Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC)
- Spotted-tail quolls are listed as rare (TSP) and vulnerable (EPBC) because of decline on mainland Australia, due to habitat loss and fragmentation.
- Eastern quolls are listed as endangered (EPBC) because of extinction on mainland Australia, due to predation and habitat loss.
- Tasmanian devil was up-listed to endangered in 2008 (TSP) and 2009 (EPBC) due to decline associated with Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD).
Occasionally landholders may try to trap and relocate devils or quolls they don't want around their area. Not only is it illegal to do so, but it could further spread the Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD). This would have a dramatic impact on local devil populations across the State; particularly in disease free areas such as the Tasman and Forestier Peninsulas.
Sometimes people set poisons for devils and quolls. This is illegal and can result in the unintended death of other wildlife, such as eagles.
If you have any concerns about devils or quolls, contact the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment on 03 6165 4305.
Roles and Values
Because devils and quolls are dominant carnivores, they play a special role in nature, including:
- maintaining bush and farm hygiene by cleaning up carcasses. This can help reduce the risk of blowfly strike to sheep by removing food for maggots.
- removing sick and weak animals helping control disease.
- reducing the chance of starvation and disease in prey populations by controlling their abundance.
Tasmanian devils and quolls are unique and spectacular animals making them a valuable tourism and biological asset. The absence of dingoes and foxes has made Tasmania a refuge for many unique species like the devil and quolls. If we can protect our wildlife the value of the Tasmanian environment will increase, globally, as other places degrade.
How You Can Help
There are a variety of things you can do to help these unique animals:
- Keep Tasmania free of foxes and dingoes
- Take particular care when driving at night, dawn or dusk, especially in bush or forested areas. In some regions, roadkill can be devastating to local populations.
- Move roadkill off the road so devils and quolls don't feed in the direct path of traffic. But make your own safety the priority at all times.
- For all injured and orphaned wildlife enquiries, contact DPIPWE on 03 6165 4305 or Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary on 0447 264 625. Advice can also be given to those concerned about devils and quolls on their property.
- When developing land, leave some areas where fallen logs and wombat burrows are common. These are good breeding sites for devils and quolls.
- Prevent your cats and dogs from roaming at night. Cats compete directly with quolls for food, and some dogs kill devils and quolls
- Ensure shooters using your property leave devils and quolls alone.