Tasmania has five species of possum but the ones you are most likely to spot when out walking the central plateau are the Brushtail possum and the Common ringtail possum. The Brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) grows to around the size of a domestic cat and has a bushy, black tail. They are a range of different colour combinations; the four main variations being black, silver grey, brown and gold, although the gold possums are rare. Their sharp claws are ideal for tree climbing as they are arboreal (meaning tree-living) and eat mainly tree leaves. They shelter and nest in trees where they sleep during the day and come out to feed during the night.
Brushtail possums breed mainly in autumn and give birth to a single young, which is also called a joey. After 4-5 months in it’s mother’s pouch the joey spends the next month or two riding around on her back. The Common Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus) can be told apart from the brushtail by the difference in tail.
The Ringtail possum’s tail is about the length of its body with a sparse covering of hair and a white tip. They use it for climbing and grasping branches and coil it close to the body when it is not in use. Brushtails generally give birth to two joeys which leave the pouch after 4 months and ride on the mothers back or shelter within the nest. These nests are made by the mother from bark, grass and leaves and are called dreys. The ringtail possum is nocturnal and spends much less time on the ground than the brushtail possum so you will have to keep your eyes up at night if you want to see one!
Photo credit: JJ Harrison