The possum (not to be confused with the opossums, a very different group of marsupials living in the Americas) is a tree-living, small cat-sized marsupial from Australia, which is found from Queensland to Tasmania, in the far-north west and also the south west of Australia.
Common Brush-Tailed Possum
The most common possum, known as the brush-tails, named because of their long, slender furry tails, which can coil up to a tight spiral. They have a foxy face, long oval and pointed ears, and usually brownish grey fur, with dark patches on the muzzle and white patches below the ears. Its scientific name, Trichosurus Vulpecula, loosely translated means little fox like hairy tail.
The male possum is generally larger than the female and he marks his territory with his scent, by using it’s glands under the chin and also near his anus. Possums are nocturnal animals and are very adaptable, being able to live in semi-desert areas, as well as right in the middle of the cities. In the cities they can be found in parks, sometimes in the roofs of people houses, and it is not uncommon for them to be found in kitchens looking for scraps of food. They are very good climbers, and often they travel very long distances on the ground.
Similar to the koala and kangaroo, on their feet they have two toes that are fused together to form a grooming comb and the first clawless toe is used like a thumb, to grip against the other four. They have sharp cutting edges on their teeth for cutting through plants. In the wild they will spend most of the day in a tree hollow, or maybe sheltering in a eucalyptus tree or along rivers, while at night they will go out scouring for their diet, consisting of flowers, fruits, grass and leaves and insects. Their call, which they use especially during the breeding season, is a noisy cough and hiss.
The Common Brush-Tailed Possum is found in most of Australia, especially along the East Coast.
The breeding season occurs all year round, with peaks in spring and autumn. The female possum is mature at 12 months, while the male is at 24 months. Usually one young is born approximately 17 -18 days after mating and attaches itself to one of the two teats in the mother’s forward opening pouch for four to five months. It will later stay with its mum for another 2 months, usually riding piggyback and learning what plants they can eat. Possums generally live alone, and their average life span is 8 years.
The possum was released in New Zealand about 150 years ago, but is now considered a pest, even though its skin provides a lucrative fur trade.
Length 350 – 550 mm (Tail 250 – 400 mm)
Weight: 2.4 – 2.9 kg
Survival Status: Secure (No foreseeable threat)