Wildfacts: Pesky Possums? No Way!

Possums are gorgeous creatures and quite harmless (though, like any wild animal they will defend themselves in need). They are marsupials – they carry their young (joey) in their pouch until it is too big. The joey then rides around on mum’s back until it is fully independent.  Ringtail males will carry the young on his back while mum is feeding.

In urban areas of Melbourne, the two most common types are the Common Brushtail and
the Common Ringtail. Hidden amongst the trees and rural areas you might find a range of gliders, pygmy possums and our faunal emblem the Leadbeater’s Possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri).

In adapting to urban life, the brushtail possum often chooses to live in roof spaces leaving urine stains behind and the noise of scurrying as they leave at dusk and return at dawn. (If the noise continues throughout the night you might actually have a rat problem). To evict possums you will need to provide a suitable alternative. A nesting box in a nearby tree is a great site for the possum. Place some fruit in or around the box for the possum to get used to its new housing. Locate the entry/exit point to your roof at dusk then place a one-way flap over the area. Finally, trim any trees around your roof leaving around 1.5 m gap.

Common Brushtail Possum Common Ringtail Possum
Scientific Name Trichosurus vulpecula

(Greek: Furry tailed + Latin: Little Fox)

Pseudocheirus peregrinus

(Greek: False hand + Latin: Pilgrim)

Diet Primarily herbivores – feeding on leaves, preferring eucalyptus.

Adapted to the human environment feeding on flowers and buds of native and non-native plants and scavenging for fruits. Brushtails will even rummage through garbage for pizza, pies or anything they can get their hands on.

In this wild, insects, birds’ eggs and other small animals will supplement the brushtail’s diet.

Feeds on native plants including the flowers, leaves and fruits.
Appearance Thick black tail, long ears and dark markings around the eyes and nose.

Silver/grey body fur with white underneath.

Body up to 55 cm with tail up to additional 40 cm

 Coiled tail with a white tip.

Usually grey/brown fur with white underneath.

Body up to 38 cm and tail to 38 cm.

Natural Threats
  • Powerful owls and other birds of prey
  • Snakes
  • Powerful owls and other birds of prey
  • Snakes
Human Threats
  • Cars
  • Dogs
  • Foxes
  • Trapping and poisoning
  • Cars
  • Foxes and cats
  • Deforestation
  • Trapping and poisoning
Habitat Forest and woodlands, tree-lined creeks or, in urban areas, often in roof-spaces and chimneys Forests, woodlands, dense scrub and suburban gardens.

Ringtails build a nest (drey) out of twigs and branches in a tree hollow, tree fork or sometimes in roller doors.

Brushtail Possum joeys

Ringtail Possums

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