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Trichosurus vulpecula [trik' uh soor' uhs vul pek' yoo luh]
The brushtail possum is the largest possum in Australia. About the size of a domestic cat, it averages 12-24 inches in length and weighs up to 10 pounds. It has a prehensile tail that adds another 9-16 inches to overall length, a pointy snout, pink nose, and long whiskers. Fur color may be silver gray, brown, black, or gold.
Distribution and Habitat
This species is found throughout eastern and northern Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, and some outlying islands. It lives in a variety of habitats, but is most commonly found in rainforests and wooded areas. Brushtail possums are also very common in urban and suburban areas.
The majority of the brushtail possum's diet consists of leaves, shoots, and other vegetable matter, but it will also take bird eggs, insects, and even the occasional small mammal. An opportunistic feeder, a brushtail possum will eagerly raid garbage bins and compost piles, as well as farms and orchards.
Breeding can occur any time of the year, but it tends to peak September-November and March to May. Gestation takes 16-18 days, after which one, occasionally two, young is born. As with all marsupials, the newborn makes its way to a pouch on the mother's belly, where it will continue to develop and grow for 4-5 months. The youngster will stay with its mother until it reaches 7-9 months of age. Females reach sexual maturity at about one year of age, males at two years. Brushtail possums can live up to 13 years in the wild.
Other Behaviors and Habits
Brushtail possums are arboreal and nocturnal. They usually den in tree hollows, logs, dense undergrowth, caves or burrows of other animals, but will take advantage of just about any available space, including inside the roof of a house. They are generally solitary, but several individuals will share a common den if there is a shortage of suitable sites.
This page was last updated on February 19, 2017.