Where to see Mammals – Western Australia.

For the last 14 years I have been living in Western Australia (WA) here are some sites that I have found particularly good for mammals, although this list is by no means extensive.

Perth and Surrounds

Even if time is limited and you only have time to visit the capital city of WA Perth it is still possible to see a wide variety of mammals.

Rottnest Island a short ferry ride off the coast is the best site in WA to see the endemic Quokka. Although they can be seen throughout the day, as with many marsupials early morning and late afternoon are the best times for viewing large numbers, so an overnight stay is worthwhile. Cathedral Rocks at the opposite end of the island to the settlement (Thomson Bay) has a permanent colony of Long-nosed (NZ) Fur Seals.

Quokka – Thomson Bay – Rottnest Island.

Yanchep National Park ( N.P. ) on the Northern outskirts of Perth is the nearest place for guaranteed views of the Western Grey Kangaroo, here they congregate on the lawns in front of the tavern late afternoon to graze.

Western Grey Kangaroo – Yanchep.

Kangaroo at Yanchep National Park

Southern Brown Bandicoots ( locally called Quenda ) can be seen in the grounds of Murdoch University in Perth’s Southern Suburbs, particularly in the area between the cafeteria and gymnasium where there is suitable habitat of dense undergrowth. These mammals come out late afternoon to forage and with patience good views are possible. Quenda viewing is much better outside of term time when the campus has less students onsite.

Another excellent site for Quenda is the picnic area situated at the top of Lesmurdie Falls in the Darling Scarp 22kms East of Perth. Busselton and Perup are other sites I have found good for this species.

Quenda – Lesmurdie Falls.

Bandicoot Foraging at Lesmurdie Falls

In season whale watching tours leave Perth with guaranteed sightings of Humpback Whales during the annual migration, whilst Indo Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins are always a possibility whilst walking around the Swan River as there is a permanent school living in the Swan / Canning Rivers that run through Perth.

A common inhabitant of the Jarrah Forest is the Western Brush Wallaby. This medium sized and pretty wallaby is most often seen early morning and late afternoon throughout the forest, but can be very skittish.

Walking the Bibbulmun Track is a good way to encounter this species, although slowly driving any of the quieter roads in the Darling Range will also produce the Western Brush Wallaby. It is increasing in numbers at Dryandra Woodland and is also easily seen driving Salt River Road that runs along the Northern boundary of the Stirling Range NP late afternoon.

The best site I have found for this species however, is Fitzgerald River NP on the South Coast of the state. Over a 24 hour period I saw 25 Western Brush Wallabies driving Devils Creek Road, Pabelup Road and West Mount Barren Road. All the Wallabies were seen late afternoon / early morning.

Western Brush Wallaby – Fitzgerald River National Park.

Wallaby Browsing Fitzgerald River

Busselton ( 2.5 hr drive South of Perth )

This medium sized pleasant seaside town is undoubtedly the best place in the state to see the Western Ringtail Possum due to the abundance of their main food source the peppermint tree. The possums can be seen in trees lining the streets of the town, but I have found that Tuart Forest N.P. and in particular the aptly named Possum Trail Walk is best for this species.

Western Ringtail Possum – Tuart Forest National Park.

Possum on branch in tuart forest

To get there drive North from Busselton towards Bunbury and take the Layman Road exit. At the roundabout with Tuart Drive continue straight ahead on Layman Road and then after 700m the Trailhead for the Possum Walk is on the left just before Wonnerup House. It is unfortunately not well marked from the road.

Brushtail Possums and Western Grey Kangaroos are also abundant on this walk and in the wetter months large numbers of frogs (especially Motorbike and Moaning sp) are easily spotlighted. I have also spotlighted a Brown Rat near the carpark.

Brown Rat – Tuart Forest National Park.

Exmouth ( 12 hr drive / 2 hr flight North of Perth )

1200km North of Perth is the outback town of Exmouth which is a mammal hotspot both onshore and offshore. There are 3 distinct marine wildlife seasons in Exmouth which can be a good place to start when planning your trip. March- July is Whale Shark season, July – November Humpback Whales visit to calve and December – March Hawksbill, Green and Loggerhead Turtles come ashore to nest on the beaches of the Ningaloo Reef.

Cape Range National Park is a 1 hour drive from Exmouth on the opposite side of the Cape, here I found 4 species of mammal fairly easy to see on a regular basis. Red Kangaroos and more commonly the Common Wallaroo (called the Euro in WA) are best seen on a late afternoon drive in the park, in fact there are so many Euros I would recommend driving no more than 50km per hour at this time. A day driving in the Cape Range NP will regularly turn up an Echidna but the real highlight of the area is the Black-footed Rock Wallaby. These pretty Wallabies can be seen on a boat cruise of Yardie Creek or indeed by walking the Yardie Creek Trail that runs alongside the gorge being sure to check out the sheer gorge walls which is prime habitat. The fabulous Pilgramunna Gorge is another excellent location for this species.

Black-footed Rock Wallaby – Pilgramunna Gorge – Cape Range N.P.

Euros ( Common Wallaroos ) – Cape Range NP – Exmouth.

Humpback Whales – Exmouth Gulf.

Karijini National Park (16 hr drive North of Perth)

This spectacular National Park of deep red gorges in the middle of Pilbara iron ore country contains populations of the endemic Rothschild Rock Wallaby. Although this Rock Wallaby can be difficult to pinpoint in the rugged terrain they are found along the length of Dales Gorge. The animal below seen in the vicinity of beautiful Fern Pool.

Rothschild Rock Wallaby.

Tone – Perup reserve ( 3.5 hr drive South of Perth )

This unmissable reserve in the middle of the South West Forests is undoubtedly the prime viewing site for mammals in of South West WA. Accommodation is at the Perup Ecology Lodge and while there are plenty of animals around the Ecology Lodge at night, spotlighting on the roads and tracks around the area will certainly increase the number of species spotted.

Kulbardi Cottage – Perup Nature’s Guesthouse.

Perup Cottage

Brushtail Possums live in the roof of the cottage and at dusk they head off on their nightime excursions via the cottage balcony and can be viewed every evening at this time. Brushtails are undoubtedly the mammal most often seen while spotlighting the roads and tracks of the area.

Snoozing Possum – Kulbardi Cottage – Perup.

Brushtail Possum Sleeping in Cottage Roof

Although not common, the most inland population of the Western Ringtail Possum occur at Perup. On the coast they are to be found in Peppermint Woodland, but at Perup they are most commonly seen in Melaleuca. In Springtime Bull Banksia seem to be a favourite food.

Western Ringtail Possum – Perup Nature Reserve.

I have seen five Numbats at Perup to date, two on Cordalup Road, one on Pollard Road, one on Boyup Brook – Cranbrook Road, and one on the aptly named Numbat Road. Check out the visitors book at the cottage where sightings are often recorded.

If visiting during the warmer months it is worth noting that Numbats often take a siesta during the hottest hour of the day when their food source the termites move away from the surface of the ground, conversely in the cooler months Numbats are active during the warmer part of the day. A drive of no more than 15 km per hr will give the best results.

Numbat – Corbalup Road – Perup.

Numbat at Perup Nature Reserve

The Roads at Perup are Unsealed but fine for 2WD.

Track at Perup Nature Reserve

The Western Quoll locally known as the Chuditch is quite common in the Perup area after dark and I have commonly seen this species on Boyup-Brook – Cranbrook Road,  especially the few kilometres west of the Simpson Road / Track Intersection.

Beware while spotlighting this road at night whilst there are very few vehicles the speed limit is 110km so be prepared to pull over sharp! It is also worth noting that Chuditch are of a similar size to the Common Brushtail Possum and their movement can look similar so it can sometimes be worth checking out that Brushtail more closely as it may have a white spotted brown coat and end up being a Chuditch!

Chuditch, more than the other mammals of Perup, use the roads and tracks to get around, and many times I have seen them on the actual road. Road killed reptiles are a magnet for this species so a late afternoon recce mission in Spring/Summer will often produce a good place to start looking for Chuditch.

Western Quoll or Chuditch on Boyup Brook – Cranbrook Road.

Western Quoll or Chuditch at Perup Nature Reserve

Quoll Feeding on Roadkill Kangaroo on Boyup Brook – Cranbrook Road.

Quoll feeding on roadkill

I have seen many Brush-tailed Phascogales at Perup. My first was on the Boyup Brook – Cranbrook Road whilst spotlighting, but these can also be seen around the Ecology Lodge. The Bandicoot Scoot Trail is definitely a good place to start looking for this species after dark.

Phascogale on Bandicoot Scoot Trail – Perup Nature Reserve.

Phascogale in tree at Perup Nature Reserve

Late Autumn, Phascogales become very active in the run up to the mating season, and I had great views of this Phascogale sourcing nectar from a flowering yate tree (Eucalyptus cornuta) at 10am.

Despite being harassed by the resident honeyeaters this animal doggedly fed for over an hour before propping and grooming on a low branch giving superlative views.

Brush-tailed Phascogale in Flowering Yate Tree – Perup Nature Reserve.

Phascogale in Flowering Yate Tree

Tammar Wallabies are easily seen in the melaleuca thickets behind the caretakers cottage during the day (100% guaranteed ) and can be seen around the accommodation when they come out into the open at night to feed.

Tammar Wallaby Enjoying the First Rays of Sunshine – Perup.

Tammar Wallaby Sunbathing at Perup Nature Reserve

Western Brush Wallabies can be seen occasionally at night whilst spotlighting.

Western Grey Kangaroos can be seen day and night on the walking trails around the accommodation.

Western Grey Kangaroo in Zamia Understory.

Kangaroo and Zamia Plant at Perup Nature Reserve

One of the walking trails at Perup is called the Bandicoot Scoot and true to its name I have often seen Bandicoots ( Quenda ) on this trail at night sometimes up to four at once!

Quenda – Perup Nature Reserve.

Bandicoot at Perup Nature Reserve

Brush-tailed Bettongs ( Woylies ) are very common at Perup, indeed this is the stronghold of this species in the South West of WA. They are easy to see around the accommodation area after dark and also on the roads and tracks of the reserve.

Woylie ( Brush-tailed Bettong. )

Woylie at Perup Nature Reserve
Woylie ( Brush-tailed Bettong )

Dryandra Woodland (2hrs South East of Perth.)

This beautiful woodland is one of WA’s best known sites for mammal watching and with accommodation in the middle of the woodland it is a great spot to spend time.

Wandoo Woodland at Dryandra.

Wandoo Woodland at Dryandra Woodland

It is undoubtedly the best place in the state to see Echidnas, and Western Grey Kangaroos graze around the accommodation every day. Spotlighting is great for Brushtail Possums on the Wandoo Walk at night ( reflective markers keep you on the track. )

Echidna – Dryandra Woodland.

Echidna at Dryandra Woodland

I have seen numerous Chuditch throughout the reserve with hotspots being the junction of Koomal with Marri Road and the section of York-Williams Road between Tomingley and the Gnaala Mia Campground Rd. I was very lucky to find a Chuditch den in mallet plantation in Spring 2019 given away by a pungent odour.

Chuditch in Log Den – Dryandra Woodland.

Woylies are increasingly common throughout the woodland with the population bolstered by translocated Woylies from Perup. I find the Sandalwood Plantation on Gura Road great for these mammals, particularly so in the month of December when the sandalwood trees are fruiting.

Woylie – Dryandra Woodland.

Woylie foraging for Sandalwood Nuts at Dryandra Woodland
Woylie – Dryandra Woodland

I have disturbed Brush Wallabies walking the Ochre Trail during the day as well as when driving around the woodland. Numbats are once again becoming easier to see now that both foxes and feral cats are being controlled.

Brush Wallaby – Dryandra Woodland.

A fabulous West Australian endemic occasionally encountered at Dryandra is the Red-tailed Phascogale. This diminutive arboreal Dasyurid favours She-oak thickets mixed with Wandoo. Although light shy it is possible to observe and even photograph when it freezes in the spotlight.

Red-tailed Phascogale – Dryandra Woodland.

Red-tailed Phascogale at Dryandra Woodland
Red-tailed Phascogale

John and Lisa the lovely caretakers at Dryandra Village are incredibly helpful and are always generous with their up to date knowledge and should be your first port of call when staying at Dryandra.

Possum on Wandoo Walk – Dryandra Woodland.

Possum in Tree - Mammal - Dryandra Woodland

Brushtail Possums are not the only Possum found at Dryandra, the incredibly cute Pygmy Possum is another inhabitant of the woodland. These year round residents are perhaps most easily pinpointed in Spring when they are attracted to the flowering heaths that are dotted throughout Dryandra.

Western Pygmy Possum – Dryandra Woodland.

Barna Mia is a sanctuary for endangered marsupials within the Dryandra Woodland and it is possible participate in after dark spotlight tours certain nights of the week (check website.) The mammals that can be seen here are very rare and include Bilbies, Boodies, Rufous Hare Wallabies, Woylies and Marl (Western-barred Bandicoots.)

Boyagin Nature Reserve (90 minute drive South East of Perth.)

This Wheatbelt Nature Reserve has good numbers of Numbats which would be the primary reason for visiting , I have seen good numbers of this species over the years including a pair coupled ready for mating during December. Roads within the Nature Reserve, with particularly good habitat for this species, that I personally have found productive include Thornbill, Lorikeet, Wattlebird and Frogmouth.

Infrastructure at Boyagin is basic with no overnight camping (best to stay at Dryandra 30 mins away,) site maps can be hard to come by and some tracks are unsuitable for 2WD although grading has much improved the tracks in recent years. However the open nature of the wandoo woodland (similar to Dryandra) makes spotting these cryptic animals easier than in the Jarrah forest with its thicker understory. Recent estimates of numbers in this small reserve are upto 50 animals.

Numbat Pair – Boyagin Nature Reserve.

Numbats Pair ready to mate at Boyagin

Echidnas are often spotted especially on warm Winter / Spring days and Brushtail Possums are the mammal most often seen at night. However, nocturnal mammals that are definitely in this reserve (seen on camera traps,) include Chuditch and Red-tailed Phascogales. Of the larger macropods I have seen Tammar Wallabies, Western Brush Wallabies and Western Greys Kangaroos at Boyagin although Euros (Common Wallaroos) are also reputed to occur in the North of Boyagin where laterite breakaways and rocky country are more common.

Tutanning Nature Reserve (2 Hour Drive South East of Perth.)

This fabulous and often overlooked Nature Reserve in the Wheatbelt is very good for certain mammals and a good suite of Reptiles. The majority of it, unfortunately, is unsuitable for 2WD due to its sandy nature although certain tracks are ok but proceed with caution.

Tammar Wallabies are more easily seen here than at both Boyagin and Dryandra, with the aptly named Tammar Rd being a hotspot.

Tammar Wallaby – Tutanning Nature Reserve.

Tammar Wallaby at Tutanning Nature Reserve

The reserve contains a large amount of she-oak habitat and as a result the she-oak associated species such as Tawny Frogmouths and Red-tailed Phascogales are in good numbers. I have seen a Red-tailed Phascogale twice on Tammar Road.

Red-tailed Phascogale – Tutanning.

Sadly Numbats have not been seen at Tutanning since 2015 and the last of the Woylies were translocated elsewhere to preserve the genetic diversity of the species as a whole. Chuditch are believed to be in the reserve as well as plenty of Western Grey Kangaroos and even Gilbert’s Dunnart.

Gilbert’s Dunnart.

Reptiles at this sandy reserve include Thorny Devils especially where Bandicoot Rd traverses the Dutarning Range, Blind Snakes, Monitor Lizards and a variety of Skinks.

Thorny Devil – Tutanning Nature Reserve.

Thorny Devil Lizard at Tutanning Nature Reserve
Thorny Devil – Tutanning Nature Reserve

Stirling Range National Park (4.5 Hour Drive South of Perth.)

The only alpine area of WA is exceptionally beautiful and definitely worth a visit, as well as mammals there are abundant birds reptiles and flowers with late winter / spring being the best time to visit.

Bluff Knoll Peak – Stirling Range.

Driving Salt River Road the Northern boundary of the park at night delivers both Western Grey Kangaroos and Brush Wallabies usually in good numbers as they head out into surrounding fields to graze. During the warmer months I have found Quenda prolific on Formby Road South and Chester Pass Road. I have seen Brush Wallabies on the lower part of Bluff Knoll Road and Quokkas at higher altitudes near the car park.

Brushtail Possums can be seen in the wandoo woodland South of Bluff Knoll Café on Chester Pass Road and Paper Collar Creek is also excellent for Brushtail Possums. The owners of the Stirling Range Retreat recommend trying the banksias near their swimming pool for Honey Possums, although there this species would be common throughout the flowering heaths of the National Park.

Numbats have been reintroduced to the Stirling range, although it is not confirmed if they have in fact established at this site (see signs on red gum pass road.) I have seen Yellow-footed Antechinus at both the Stirling Range Retreat and behind the DPaW Campground at Moyinup Springs.

Sadly in December 2019 a bushfire started by lightning tore through the Eastern end of the Stirling Range NP resulting in complete decimation of 17,000 hectares, meaning currently, many of the sites listed above would not contain said mammals, although the Western end of the NP remains unburnt.

Mt Caroline Nature Reserve (2.5 hrs drive East of Perth.)

Mount Caroline Nature Reserve.

Rainbow at Mt Caroline Nature Reserve
Mount Caroline Nature Reserve

Mt Caroline is one of a series of granite outcrops in the Central Wheatbelt that hold isolated populations of the Black-flanked Rock Wallaby. There are good populations at Mt Caroline that can be viewed late afternoon provided that movement is kept to a minimum. Other mammals I have seen at Mt Caroline are Euros, Western Grey Kangaroos and Echidnas.

Black-flanked Rock Wallaby – Mount Caroline Nature Reserve.

Cheynes Beach (5 hours South of Perth.)

This really pretty settlement on West Australia’s South Coast is a very good location to find the Honey Possum . This is because the heathland surrounding the town has flowering plants year round, especially Banksias, a favourite flower of the Honey Possum.

A good example to demonstrate this year round cycle is the Scarlet Banksia (coccinea,) flowering from Winter into early Summer, the Coastal Banksia (attenuata,) has its main flowering period from Spring through Summer, finally the Baxter’s Banksia (baxteri,) flowers late Spring to Autumn.

Scarlet Banksia – Cheynes Beach.

Scarlet Banksia

I saw my first Honey Possum in the heath at Cheynes Beach but they can be quite light shy under white light and are better observed under red light. Better still they can be viewed in the daytime if conditions are overcast.

September 2019 I stopped in at Cheynes Beach during a long weekend and discovered a Coastal Banksia had resident Honey Possums. Dawn and dusk it was possible to watch these enchanting marsupials active feeding on the flower spikes.

Returning two weeks later I was delighted to find the Honey Possums were still active on the banksia, but with conditions overcast and windy with passing light showers the Honey Possums were active well into the morning (11am.) The Honey Possums were furtive but during the morning I was able to watch their behaviour over an extended period of time and also get the long awaited photos.

Honey Possum.

The Office at the Cheynes Beach Caravan Park has a book recording wildlife spotted around the area. While this mostly contains bird sightings (Cheynes has three very sought after birds,) there are records of Honey Possum sightings in the book also. The Caravan Park also has tubes set up to host nesting Pygmy Possums, although these have always been empty when I have visited. I have also seen Bush Rats at Cheynes Beach Caravan Park.

Cheynes Beach is also famous for its Southern Right Whales that come to calve July through September. This species comes into the bay at Cheynes and is easily seen cruising past a vantage point called Tourist Rocks, although any elevated cliff in the area would provide views of these whales.

Southern Right Whales Viewed from Coast – Cheynes Beach.

Southern Right Whales in Southern Ocean

Two Peoples Bay about an hour drive from Cheynes is a good site for Western Ringtail Possums, Quenda and Quokka. The Ringtails are present in the peppermint trees between the carpark and the beach, whilst the Quokkas and Quenda can most easily be seen on the lawn near the beach, or on the paths around the visitor centre. Gilbert’s Potoroo is another species found at Two Peoples Bay but would be near impossible to see without joining a trapping survey.

Mainland Quokka – Two Peoples Bay

Quokka at Two Peoples Bay

Yellow-footed Antechinus or Mardo are actually quite common on ther lawns of the picnic area. I have had numerous sightings of this species here with the aid of a thermal imager.

Mardo – Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve.

#NatureNeverFailsToImpress!

7 thoughts on “Where to see Mammals – Western Australia.

  1. Nice guide. Have you found water rats (Rakali) in WA yet? The Murray River near Dwellingup, between Island Pool and Baden Powell waterspout is a good place to look. Mussel shells and marron carapaces on rocks or banks by the water’s edge is a good indication of their presence.I have also seen them in the Swan River at Maylands back in the 1980s but haven’t looked there recently as I only visit Perth occasionally now. Also under the bridge that crosses the river on the way in to the Two People’s Bay picnic area I saw a Rakali dash for the water.

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    1. Hey Michael, thanks for your message with it’s excellent information. I have yet to see Rakali in WA, but have sourced some excellent sites on the South Coast. Of course, with current regional restrictions visiting these sites is no longer possible, so with my spare time I shall certainly investigate your Murray River sites! I will let you know how I go. Cheers and thanks again Jimmy 👍

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