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Red-tailed Phascogale (Phascogale calura)

Red Tailed 
Phascogale

The Red-Tailed Phascogale


The red-tailed phascogale is an endangered species that was once widespread over Australia. This species can currently only be found in the wheatbelt of western Australia. In 1920 the last documentation outside the wheatbelt was made in central Australia. Red-tailed phascogales have two primary predators: cats and foxes. However the decline of this species is primarily attributed to the loss of habitat.

There has been a lack of controlled burns in the wheatbelt, leaving the vegetation overgrown. Red-tailed phascogales find refuge in the dense vegetation from predators. Nests are primarily found in and around trees (Rock Oak appears to be a favourite). The nest itself is constructed of leaves and twigs. Many of the grasses the red-tailed phascogale can commonly be found in contain the chemical monosodium fluoroacetate, which will kill sheep and cattle (from ingesting the chemical when grazing).

Tail measurements average 130mm whereas head and body measurements average 110mm. Head and body coloration is primarily brown with some grey throughout the fur. The brown fades into a creamy white hue on the underbelly. There is a ring around each eye that is colored similarly to the underbelly. The top half of the tail is a rust color, the bottom half is a black haired brush. Red-tailed phascogales have light red (but not pink) ears and nose. Climbing is a simple task for this species due to grooved pads on the bottom of their feet.

Red-tailed phascogales receives their water requirements through their food, thus eliminating their need to drink water. The diet of a red-tailed phascogale consists of insects, small mammals, and birds. Although much of the food is found foraging in the tall vegetation, the red-tailed phascogale can leap up to 2 meters and easily catch small birds in the canopy. This species scouts possible sources of food during the day although it is primarily nocturnal.

There is a narrow window of breeding that takes place in July and lasts only 3 weeks. Gestation for the red-tailed phascogale lasts about one month, most births occur in mid-August. There is one litter a year that can contain up to 8 young. Young are completely weaned off the mother at about 20 weeks. Wild male red-tailed phascogales live only one year (usually expiring after mating) in the wild and wild females can live up to four years. It is notable that in captivity, males can live longer if they are permitted to mate in their first year but are isolated the rest of the time. 

 

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Bibliography

A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia, Menkhorst, P. and Knight, F. 2001.

Animal Info-Red-tailed Phascogales, Massicot, P., 8/6/04, http://www.animalinfo.org/species/phascalu.htm.

Tracks, Scats, and Other Traces: A Field Guide to Australian Mammals, Triggs, B. 1996.

Red-tailed Phascogale, Phascogale calura, South Australian Museum, 8/6/04, www.samuseum.sa.gov.au/extinctions/rtphasc.htm.


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