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Habitat Ecology Information

What’s Lurking In Your Backyard? – #19 Ringtail Possum

This series looks at the variety of fauna that may be found in the suburban backyard or local reserve and the diversity may be surprising to some people. The obvious fauna are the vast array of birds that are readily seen by day and some by night, but there are numerous species that are nocturnal. Some of these nocturnal species people are familiar with as they tramp across the roof at night with what sounds like hobnail boots on, or they hear fighting in the backyard over food and territory. Others are cryptic and may only be seen infrequently when they enter the house for warmth and shelter. Each week I will highlight a different species that may be found in and around Melbourne’s backyards, parks and reserves, some may be familiar others less so.

#19 Common Ringtail Possum
(Pseudocheirus peregrinus)

The Common Ringtail Possum like the Common Brushtail Possum (What’s Lurking In Your Backyard #2) has adapted well to the changes associated with urban development. Ringtail Possums can be found in and around the suburban garden as well as the council parks and gardens searching for their favorite foodstuffs.

The Ringtail Possum is said to be about the size of a cat although a small one and has a prehensile tail which gives it the ability to hang onto branches, powerlines etc. as it scrambles around at night time. Primarily grey in colour it has a white tip to its tail and underbelly as well as around the eye. It also has a rusty orange/brown tinge around the face and flanks.

The Ringtail Possum can be found along the east coast of Australia and into South Australia. Rarely coming to ground it is primarily a tree dwelling species that can be found in most forest types including woodlands, forests and rainforest, along with dense scrub including the urban backyards.

This possum utilises a nest of twigs and back in a ball shape, which it constructs in a protected area in shrubs and tree forks. The nest is called a “drey“ and may have several of these scattered around its home range, which it will utilise over a period of time and share with one or more possum at a time.

The Ringtail Possum is nocturnal usually appears just after dark to undertake its nightly foray for food. Its diet consists of a variety of leaves of both native and introduced plants, as well as flowers and fruits. One of the peculiar habits of this possum is that it will eat its own faecal pellets. This enables it to digests its food twice to extract the maximum amount of nutrients.

During the early stage of the young’s life when the mother is feeding, the male will carry the young on his back and care for them. This phenomenon is only known in this possum species.

© Habitat Ecology 2012