Common Brushtail Possum


(Trichosurus vulpecula)

Common Brushtail PossumOther Common names: ‘Brushie’ or Brushtail


Physical description:

  • Our most familiar Possum. Large, pointed ears & face with usually pale or pinkish nose.
  • Colour variable. Brisbane area generally with light grey body, black bushy tail & lighter grey to creamy paws & underbelly. Average body length 500mm, weight approx 3.5-4kg.
  • Tail often used to grasp branches but cannot support its own body-weight.
  • Males generally larger & heavier than females & may have reddish fur across shoulders.
  • Males use scent glands under the chin, on the chest & near the anus to mark territory. During breeding season the chest gland is usually visible as a reddish-brown stained area against the lighter-coloured chest fur.

Ecology

  • Arboreal (tree-living) occupying a wide range of habitats across Australia; prefers forested & woodland areas.
  • Nocturnal, spending daylight hours asleep in tree hollows, dead branches, thick ferns, epiphytes or even fallen logs.
  • Natural diet consists of leaves, flowers & fruit of native plants. Capable of digesting leaves & fruits often toxic to other species. Also eats insects, bird eggs and scavenge meat if available.
  • Naturally solitary and territorial. Young remain with the mother until 8-10 months old then leave to establish their own territory.
  • Communication is via scent markings, deep coughing & hissing noises when encountering other individuals.
  • Although common in Brisbane, populations in other areas of Australia have become vulnerable or disappeared entirely.
  • Threats include; land clearing & loss of habitat, and in urban areas road-deaths & dog attacks.

Breeding

  • Queensland Brushtails breed in Autumn and sometimes Spring. In northern & tropical areas they may breed all year round.
  • Females may breed from 12 months of age & generally give birth to one young 17-18 days after mating.
  • Young spend next 4-5 months in the pouch attached to a teat.
  • A further 1-2 months is spent riding on the mothers back & suckling from her. After leaving their mother, juvenile mortality is high up to about 18 months of age, as young try to establish

Common Brushtail Possum with young

Common Brushtail Possum with young

Suburban Brushtail Possums:

  • Common Brushtail in roofBrushtail Possums have proven highly adaptable to urban environments using trees, wildlife corridors, natural gullies, roofs and wall cavities often moving via telegraph poles, cabling and fences for travelling and foraging.
  • Cities and towns provide abundant warm, dry shelters, lots of available food plants from manufactured gardens and opportunity to scavenge from litter and rubbish bins.
  • Hand feeding by residents and leaving domestic pet-food outside can also assist possums.
  • Densities are much higher now due to high availability of food and suitable refugia.

Living with Brushtail Possums

Brush-tail Possums are often responsible for sleepless nights for suburban home occupants during entry, exit and general movements associated with roof and wall cavities. Placement of a possum box in a tree around your property is advised as your first option. These are available from produce stores, specialist artificial home constructors or you can make your own.

So what can you do to try and deter a resident possum in your home?

The exclusion of possums from your home is quite simple requiring a small effort on your own behalf.

  • Inspect your roof for signs of obvious signs of entry. Access is often gained by broken tiles, lifting corrugated iron sheets, deteriorating timber eaves, loose guttering and poor workmanship by builders.
  • Obvious signs include hair and urine staining. Feacal matter may also accumulate directly below the entry point.
  • Inspect the entire roof. Possums may utilise more than one location and will look for other localities if the usual access is sealed.
  • Place loosely "scrunched up" balls of newspaper in the entry of probable sites and inspect over a two day period to see which localities are being utilised. The paper will be either pushed out or pulled into the roof space.
  • Place the paper back into the space and wait for the resident possum to make his early evening exit. Inspect the locality every 10-15 minutes to determine when this has occurred and simply block the point of entry with a hard fixture like sheet iron. Tightly compressed chicken wire reinforced with expandable building foam available in a can is ideal for hard to reach spaces. In some cases the replacement of a single tile or re-fixing of an iron sheet will solve the problem.
  • The possum box you placed in your tree as option A may become the new home for your excluded visitor and provides a "win win" solution for all.
  • In the event a possum is accidentally trapped during the process either reopen the closed entry point or remove a tile or raise a sheet of iron on your roof to allow exit. If this fails contact a local licensed reputable possum handler for immediate assistance.

Advice & Management

If your best efforts of excluding your possum/s fail then further advice and assistance may be your last resort.
Ecologically-minded possum advice, specialist trapping requirements, and legislative compliant release methods should be employed by licensed professionals for effective possum management.

Contact - your local licenced Possum specialist. For Brisbane and surrounds call Peter the Possum Man on (07) 3250 1111.

Trapping and further management of Brushtail possums should be done in accordance with requirements stipulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and permits are issued to operators after examination as to the knowledge and suitability of the permit holder to actively manage suburban possums. Often these permit holders are able to provide proofing measures to exclude further entry.

Possums should not be relocated more than 25 meters from the point of capture after proofing has been conducted. Be sure to ask contractors what methods they employ and choose the one which provides a solution for yourself and the best welfare outcome for the possum/s being trapped.