Red-tailed Phascogale

Article | Updated 4 months ago

DPAW’s Threatened Fauna: An Overview – Red-tailed Phascogale

Phascogale calura

Western Australia’s Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPAW) keeps an extensive list of threatened fauna in line with the Wildlife Conservation Act. On this list, 44 mammals are listed as “fauna that is rare or likely to become extinct.” This includes the Red-tailed Phascogale, or Kenngoor.

The Red-tailed Phascogale was once widely distributed across the Australian mainland, but is now thought to only survive in small areas across south-west Western Australia.

This small dasyurid (belonging to the family of marsupials but lacking a pouch) spends most of its time in trees, although also often ventures to the ground to feed. It is most commonly found in Wandoo and Sheoak woodlands, and prefers a dense canopy and plenty of places to hide – particularly tree hollows.

Appearance

Red-tailed Phascogales can weigh up to 68g, have a head and body length of up to 122mm, and a tail length of up to 145mm. Males are typically larger than females.

DPAW describes the Red-tailed Phascogale as ‘ash-grey and cream to white below with a blackish patch in front of the eye and reddish coloured ears.’ Its tail is the most distinctive feature. The base of the tail is covered in red-coloured fur (which gives the Red-tailed Phascogale its name), and this runs through to a long brush of dark hair at its end.

A red-tailed phascogale at Perth Zoo.

Red-tailed phascogale
CC S J Bennett, https://www.flickr.com/photos/quollism/

Behaviours and Breeding

Although usually nocturnal, the Red-tailed Phascogale is known to become active during the day, with a particular mission of finding foods such as invertebrates and small birds and mammals.

This species of Phascogale prefers to nest in Wandoo trees, whose hollow limbs and fallen logs are ideal for building nests, which are made of feathers and grass.

There is only a small window of opportunity for Red-tailed Phascogales to breed – a three-week period in July (winter). Soon after a male has mated with a female, he dies from stress-related illness due to a heavy investment in this short and hectic breeding season.

The female gestates for 28-30 days, and can give birth to up to 13 young. Only a maximum of 8 young can survive, however, as a female only has 8 nipples with which to feed her offspring.

Young Red-tailed Phascogales remain close to their mother through August to October, but must venture out to set up their own home ranges by the end of February.

Females can breed up to 3 times during their lifespan, however a male will breed only once before he dies at approximately 11.5 months old.

Threats

Foxes are the main cause of the decline in Red-tailed Phascogale range and abundance, and it is possible that feral cats have also contributed to this decline. DPAW have exotic predator controls in place to attempt to rectify these threats.

Another problem is the fragmentation and loss of habitat, particularly in the Wheatbelt, and forest-fires (both natural and man-made). DPAW have implement fire management plans to try to revitalise Red-tailed Phascogale habitats.

Further Information

For further information, click here.