We managed to get some pictures of a cute Brushtail possum (or Trichosurus vulpecula ) in a tree close to the house.
It’s always lovely to see the wildlife and given that Brushtail possums are nocturnal marsupials like most of our native species, it is always a pleasant surprise to be able to see them during the day.
Leaves, flowers, and fruits of native plants are the brushtail possum’s favourite foods, although they also eat fruits like bananas and pawpaws.
Leaves are however the main part of their diet and some of their favourite types are very toxic. In fact, the brushtail possum has a very high tolerance to plant toxins.
They also help to control the spread of parasitic native mistletoe plants. If this plant thrives, it can kill a eucalypt tree.
In Australia possums are a protected species however in New Zealand, where they have been introduced they are a feral pest.
What does a Brushtail Possum look like?
A black bushy tail, large pointy ears, and a silver-brown coat (although colour varies widely depending on location) make the cat-sized possum easy to recognise.
Males can weigh up to 4.5 kg and females up to 3.5 kg. Males also have reddish-brown fur on their shoulders.
Found in most parts of Queensland, the brushtail possum becomes less common in the drier western parts of the state. It is also common in cities where it can use just about any dark hollow for a home.
In its natural habitat, the possum lives in fallen logs, tree trunks or dead branches.
How does the Brushtail Possum breed?
Most brushtails have a major autumn and minor spring breeding season. But those in tropical and dry areas will breed throughout the year if the necessary food is available. A female brushtail has a forward-facing pouch containing two nipples and can breed after she is one-year-old.
She gives birth to a single baby 18 days after mating. The young will spend between four and five months in the pouch, attached to one teat. Young possums spend another one to two months suckling and riding on the mother’s back before being fully weaned.
Most young survive their time in the pouch, but a lot can die when they’re 6-18 months of age. This is when the young leave the area of their birth and try to set up territories of their own. Males aren’t willing to share their space with younger males.
During the breeding period, brushtails become more territorial, as males use glands under their chin, on their chest and near the anus to scent-mark their territory.
Possums communicate through these scents and with sound through deep, guttural coughs and hisses.
Threats to survival of the Brushtail Possum
The brushtail possum is still common here in Queensland, however elsewhere in Australia many populations have disappeared and others have become vulnerable.
Although they can be a nuisance in urban areas removing a possum from its habitat is cruel and unnecessary as they typically won’t survive once it is.
Brushtail possums provide an important link between people living in urban areas and Australia’s native animals. Just because these possums are common doesn’t mean they deserve to be taken for granted.