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Common Ring-tail possum doing OK

We have lost and are still losing native mammals in Victoria. Many have become locally extinct in our area of Northern Victoria. I can only dream of seeing Quolls and Bandicoots in our bushland here.

We have one particular marsupial mammal which is holding on here, although it has likely declined as well due to habitat loss and predation from feral cats and foxes.

The Common Ring-tailed possum is small in comparison to our larger Brush-tailed possum. They have been a little less adaptable to our urban environments than the Brushies as well, preferring native bushland with hollows to the walls or roof cavities of our houses, although as more of their natural habitat has been lost, they can also be found in urban areas as well. They usually camp out during the day in what we call a drey. Their drey consists of a rounded nest made from leaves, twigs and branches, usually either in a hollow or placed within dense foliage of a tree or shrub. Unlike the Brush- tailed who usually camps alone, Ring-tailed possums prefer to camp in groups. One male and several females may occupy the drey, including young females born from the previous couple of years. They are predominantly arboreal (living in trees) but I have seen evidence of the Ring- tailed possums on my bushland property coming to the ground to dig up fungi under the surface of the woodland floor.

Their diet is mainly eucalypt leaves and foliage but will also munch on flowers and fruits and eat both native and introduced plants. In some areas they may use human dwellings to rest during the day but it is much rarer for them to be in sheds, wall and roof cavities than their Brush- tailed cousin. I have not come across Ring-tailed possums in our area occupying these spaces but I’m sure it does happen.

They are not a long lived animal, average lifespan is only six years. Both male and female possums help make the drey and breeding usually occurs between April and November. After breeding, almost a month later females give birth to a tiny, jelly bean sized joey which makes its way to the pouch and secures to a teat. Twins are common in Ring- tailed possums. Nourished with their mother’s milk, after about seven weeks the young venture from the pouch to become what we call back riders, clinging to mother’s back while she forages around at night.

Interestingly, the male Ring- tailed possum is the only possum we have that will share parental duties with the female and young may be transferred to the male’s back while the female is eating. Young possums continue to back ride until around six months of age.

The most common reasons we see Ring-tailed possums run into trouble and come into care are vehicle collisions, cat and dog attacks and they can also get electrocuted on powerlines and transformers. As they are territorial, youngsters who come into care are provided with nesting boxes upon release to ensure they have their own drey until they find their way in the world and don’t get evicted immediately by resident possums. You can help these beautiful possums by installing nesting boxes around your property, keeping cats inside and planting native vegetation.