Red-tailed Phascogale (Phascogale calura)

Endagered Species Classification

Extinct in the Wild
Critically Endangered
Conservation Dependent

Once widespread throughout the arid and semi-arid regions of central and northern Western Australia, central Northern Territory and the far west border between New South Wales and Victoria. The species has not been seen outside Western Australia since the 1950’s and its range is now reduced to numerous isolated locations in remnant bushland in the south-west of Western Australian.

The isolation of the various populations of Red-tailed Phascogales impedes movement between populations and recolonisation of areas that have affected by bushfires or other disasters. As their habitat is highly flammable, fire kills many Phascogales. Predation by foxes and cats is also a problem.

FAME, the farming community of Narambeen, and Wildlife Research and Management are working together to provide a feral-proof area for the Phascogale and other endangered species at Wadderin Sanctuary in the Western Australian wheat belt. In 2009 Red-tailed Phascogales were moved to the sanctuary. Initial monitoring indicates that the first ever Red-tailed Phascogale translocation has been successful with females having reproduced.

Appearance: The Red-tailed phascogale is a small marsupial with brown fur on the head and body sprinkled with grey.  Colour fades to a creamy white on the underbelly and around the eyes.  Ears and nose are light red.  The tail is rust coloured on top and black below. Body measures up to 11cm and a long brush-like tail measuring up to 13cm.

Habitat: Dense, tall vegetation (typically dry eucalypt forests) that provides potential nest sites, protection and foraging.  Phascogales are arboreal, spending most of their time above ground in trees and bushes.  They travel through the forest canopy, leaping up to 2 metres from branch to branch as they search for food and shelter.  Phascogales have adapted to living and climbing in trees by developing grooved pads on the bottom of their feet.  Phascogales nest in holes, hollows, and the forks of trees or in the skirts of grass trees, lining the nest with leaves and twigs.

Diet: Red-tailed Phascogales are nocturnal and feed mainly on insects, as well as the occasional small bird or mammal.  They will sometimes forage on the ground.  Phascogales do not usually drink, obtaining moisture through their diet.  Phascogales play a role in maintaining a balance in the insect world. They also prey on the introduced house mouse and help to keep their numbers down.

Did you know? In the wild male Phascogales rarely live beyond their first mating, following which they usually die of stress related diseases.  Females can live up to four years of age.

Last updated March 2012