A recent scientific survey of the impact of the 2003 fire in the upper Snowy River on Tiger Quolls calculates a reduction in the quoll population of between 67.5-90%. The impact of this loss on the state population (without taking into account the impact of the 2003 fires from the north-east through the Alps and Gippsland) would be between 33-45% reduction.
Given the ongoing decline in range and abundance of quolls in Victoria a sudden decline of this magnitude should be sounding the sirens.
Dasyurus maculatus, the Tiger (or Spot-Tailed) Quoll had been Studied and monitored in the Suggan Buggan valley since 1990. In February 2003, the alpine wildfires burnt through the Suggan Buggan Valley and Rocky Range.
Quolls love rocky outcrops and have certain areas where they leave their droppings. These are called latrine sites. These were surveyed in the study area to record the animals’ presence.
Searches were undertaken in April 2003, February-March and October 2004 and October 2005 over many known sites. Presence/absence was then compared to fire intensity. Evidence of quolls surviving was found at five sites that were either unburnt or patchily burnt at low intensity. Sites where quolls were not recorded included the north-facing escarpment along the Suggan Buggan Valley an area that burnt very hot.
The Upper Snowy River has had a consistent record of quolls for the past 25 years. Approximately 90% of the white box/cypress pine on both sides of the Snowy River burnt intensely. The only areas either unburnt or burnt patchily were sections of the Suggan Buggan valley, Gattamurah Creek, the Snowy River valley and Little River Gorge.
Quolls did survive in areas that didn’t burn so intensely. The fact that quolls, and their prey were still absent from the escarpment more than two and a half years after the fire suggests they did not survive the fire. Given their nationally endangered status and slowness to recolonise this is a serious dive in the state’s population of this amazing pouched meat-eater.