#ThreatenedSpecies of the Week: Red-tailed Phascogale (Phascogale calura)

The Red-tailed Phascogale (Phascogale calura) is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), and ‘Conservation Dependent’ under the WA Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.
Photo Credit: Bush Heritage Australia.
Photo Credit: Bush Heritage Australia.

The Red-tailed Phascogale is a small, arboreal, carnivorous marsupial with ash-grey fur on top, and cream fur on its underside. Its distinctive tail grows up to 14.5 cm long, with half (the portion nearer the body) coloured reddish-brown, and the other half comprising a brush of long black hairs. It also has large, thin, reddish ears. This species is sexually dimorphic, with males growing to 12.2cm long and weighing up to 68 grams, and females growing to 10.5cm and weighing up to 48 grams.

The Red-tailed Phascogale occurs in remnant vegetation in the southern wheatbelt of Western Australia (less than one per cent of its former range) and where annual mean rainfall is 400−500 mm. It occurs within the Avon Wheatbelt, Jarrah Forest, Mallee and Esperance Plains IBRA Bioregions; and the Avon, Northern Agricultural, Rangelands, South Coast, South West; and Swan Natural Resource Management Regions.

Historically, the species had a wide distribution in arid and semi-arid Australia, however has suffered a large contraction in range which continued into the late 20th century. Populations have been lost from the central and eastern wheatbelt of Western Australia since the mid-1970s. Much of the Phascogale’s original habitat has been extensively cleared for agriculture, and much of the remaining bushland in which it is known to occur is highly fragmented and/or frequently declining in condition.

The Red-tailed Phascogale is largely confined to woodlands with old-growth hollow-producing eucalypts, particularly Wandoo (Eucalyptus wandoo) and York gum (Eucalyptus loxophleba). It is often found in areas with associated Rock Sheoak (Allocasuarina huegeliana), but has also been recorded in shrublands and various mosaics of woodland, shrubland and scrub-heath. It avoids relatively open areas and rocky ridges which are devoid of vegetation, and prefers long unburnt patches (more than 50 years between fires).

The species is mainly nocturnal and largely arboreal, but also feeds extensively on the ground. It is an opportunistic feeder, taking a wide range of insects and spiders as well as small birds and mammals. The best habitat has numerous tree hollows for shelter and a semi-continuous canopy − which probably provides some protection against predation by feral cats and foxes.

There are a number of threats to the Red-tailed Phascogale – including predation by feral cats and foxes, habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change, and frequent and intense fires.


Information Source: Government of Australia, Department of Environment and Energy; Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions; and Australian Wildlife Conservancy


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