An endangered native quoll was spotted in our region for the first time in 17 years.
The spotted-tailed quoll is believed to live across the New England and Northern Tablelands area but hasn't raised its head near Armidale since 2003. It is classed as 'vulnerable' in NSW and 'endangered' nationally.
But a suspected chicken thief near Tilbuster north of Armidale has been identified as the native marsupial.
The sighting happened by accident, according to NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service officer Adam Fawcett.
"Chickens had been lost regularly in over a few weeks, so he put out an infra-red motion sensor camera to see how the animal was getting into the chicken pen and, to his surprise, captured images of a spotted-tailed quoll," he said.
The quoll is the mainland's largest native marsupial predator; it's about the size of a cat.
They are known to live in large populations in national parkland east of Armidale, including the Oxley Wild Rivers and New England and Guy Fawkes River National parks.
Mr Fawcett, who works as a Saving Our Species officer, said the discovery is a morale boost. NPWS plans to conduct a statewide survey for the animal later in 2020.
"This is an especially important find given the severe recent drought and its impact on vegetation," he said.
"Threats to spotted-tailed quolls include loss of habitat and being hit by vehicles as they cross roads, but one of the biggest issues is animals being shot or poisoned in response to attacks on domestic chickens and aviaries."
He urged farmers and homeowners to contact the NPWS or New England Local Land Service for advice on how to stop the predator in a humane manner.