Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria

Ring-tailed Possum Fact Sheet

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Common Ringtail Possum
Pseudocheirus peregrinus

Would you like to have a tail to carry things with? The Common Ring-tailed Possum has one! They have a long white tipped prehensile tail which can be used carrying nesting materials as well as for gripping branches when climbing. It also has as two thumbs on each front foot which helps them to grip in the trees. The soles of the feet and the underside of the tail is hairless which also helps them to grip on the branches. The short fur is grey-brown on the back with white underneath. When immature, the Common Ring-tailed Possum is reddish brown. They weigh about 700-1100g and its head and body are approximately 30-35cm. Its tail is also 30-35 cm long.

The Ring-tailed Possum is a very social animal. It has a soft, high pitched twittering call. It is a nocturnal animal, and has very good night vision.

Breeding and Lifecycle
Ringtailed Possums breeding season takes place from April to November. The female has four teats but normally only rears two young When born, the joeys are hairless and about the the size of a jellybean, and leave the pouch when they are about 4 months of age, travelling on the mother’s back. The father also carries young on his back.The young are fully weaned after 6 months of age. The male-female bond usually carries from one breeding season to the next, although the male may mate and associate with a second female in a different part of its home range after the first. Family groups tend to nest and forage together until the young disperse. Breeding seasons vary in different parts of Australia

Ringtail Possums live in family groups which usually contain a male, one or two females and the young from the previous year. These young do not become adult until they are eighteen months old when they leave the group to form their own families.

Habitat & Distribution
The Ring-tailed possum can be found in rainforests, shrubby woodlands, eucalypt forests, coastal shrub and suburban gardens. They are a tree dwelling animal which has adapted its behaviour to live in close association with humans and their gardens and make use of a wide range of introduced flowers and fruit. They can also live in the roofs of houses. The ringtail may build as many as five nests amongst dense undergrowth in its home range, and will move readily from one to another taking its young with it. They will sleep in these nests during the day. The nests, called ‘drays’, are built on tree hollows and dense vegetation. They are usually shaped like a ball and about 30cm in diameter. The male and female build the nest together, carrying grass, leaves and shredded bark curled up in their tails.

Diet
The Common Ringtail possum is primarily a leaf eater and is one of only a few marsupials able to feed on eucalypt leaves. Ringtail possums also eat a wide variety of flowers (mainly eucalypt), fruits, nectar and shoots.

With the increase of numbers in urban areas, Ring-tailed Possums have adapted to eating more exotic foods including rose buds and fruit from fruit trees.

Threats to Survival
In the treetops the ringtail possum is safer from predators, however, while on the ground they are prey to dingoes, goannas, quolls and foxes. Ringtail possums are also under threat due to increased human activity in their native habitat. Power lines, cars and domestic animals account for many possum deaths.

While possums are protected fauna in NSW, people still trap them without a licence. This can lead to the possum being injured.

As possums are increasing in urban areas, many people end up sharing a roof with one or more possums. If you have a possum in your roof, you should provide an alternative home for your possum. This can be done by building a possum-house and placing it near your roof. A bright light in the roof for three days and nights will also help to deter the possums. When you are sure that your possum is not in the roof, block the entrance using chicken wire or timber.


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