Gruesome discovery in Ballina woman's chook pen
ALL FIVE of Leona Spinks' chickens suffered an unusual death this week in two separate attacks in down town Ballina.
The culprit ate the head off one chicken, leaving the body to be found by its grieving owner, who had locked the remaining birds in their coup in an effort to protect them after the first attack.
"My little girl was trying to tell me. She was a talker," Ms Spinks said, describing the behaviour of one of her chickens, which was pacing backwards and forwards clucking after the first attack.
The culprit, a quoll, was caught on camera by Ms Spinks' visitors.
The spotted-tailed quoll and the tiger quoll are two names for the same animal, known scientifically as Dasyurus maculatus.
A spokesman from NSW Environment and Heritage said it was unusual to find such a quoll in town, but not in the hinterland.
"At this time of the year males are roaming very widely in search of mates at the start of the breeding season," he said.
"They will move dozens, perhaps hundreds, of kilometres looking for love, a search that often takes them into unusual habitats and into contact with towns and people.
"There are good numbers of quolls in the northern part of the state, particularly in the national parks of the ranges and tablelands.
"They are generally not seen and, more often than not, when they are seen, it will be in someone's chook shed."
Quolls are marsupial carnivores, closely related to the Tasmanian devil and the extinct Tasmanian tiger.
They will eat any small to medium-sized mammal, including rabbits, possums, gliders, bandicoots, rats and mice. They also eat birds and lizards, but are known to have a particular fondness for chicken.
They are endangered and listed as a threatened species in NSW and at the national level.
"It is estimated that their range in NSW and more widely across Australia has reduced by about 50 per cent since European settlement, largely due to habitat clearance for agricultural and urban development," the NSW Environment and Heritag spokesman said.
"Other threats include competition from introduced predators (foxes and cats), road kill and unfortunately the odd interaction in the past with the owners of chickens although most people these days tend to be more forgiving when they realise how important this animal is."
Being listed as a threatened species means that harming the quoll can result in severe penalties.
If you do see one or find one in your chook shed, don't kill it, but report it to the NPWS immediately.