Ringtail Possums – protecting, advancing and appreciating them!

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Australia is renowned for its unique wildlife and as such it plays a large part of our sporting teams are named after them, are pictured on our currency, artist draw inspiration from them, businesses use their aggressive species. This is why dreys are used a lot more.

Unfortunately too many people have a habitat of taking our wildlife for granted. Sadly we, as a nation, have already lost a large number of species in a relatively short period of time. Even worse, our behaviour as a species is more than likely to see more of our unique fauna to become extinct unless we take some drastic actions.

– This loss of species, is a loss for us all. It robs our children and future generations and deprives them of their heritage. Our natural environment becomes ecologically out of balance, which then in turns leaves us vulnerable to pests, diseases and a natural imbalances. Sadly, there are members of our communities across Australia who view our wildlife even as pests. This couldn’t be further from the truth and it is totally unacceptable. This sort of attitude is the reason why so many of our fauna have become extinct or are threatened with extinction. We as a society need to understand that our fauna provides many other benefits beside the aesthetic values and so, we must get a better understanding of our wildlife’s needs and behaviours.

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(image: Asleep in daytime roost. Common ringtails usually build nests. This one prefers the open air.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_ringtail_possum)

Ringtail Possums

A small arboreal marsupial that lives along the east coast of Australia. Fortunately, they are well adapted to the urban environment. As social animals, they live in family groups and can have a number of dreys (nests) within a close proximity.

Life cycle

Ringtails can live up to 8 years. They start breeding from April and will generally have up to 2 offspring. Mums are not great parents as they will throw the young away if they feel threatened. This is a most unusual method of survival.

Diet

Ringtails have adapted well to the urban environment and their diets can vary in different areas depending on what is available.
They consume leaves and flowers from a variety of plants including both indigenous, native and exotic which is now their preferred diet. Fruit is also a favourite food for Ringtails. Occasionally insects are eaten, however this is probably not intentional. It happens when insects are on the plant material that they feed on.

Habitat

If small hollows in trees are available ringtails will use them. However since there is a lack of hollows particularly in urban areas, they are usually kicked out by larger or more aggressive species. This is why dreys are used a lot more. Dreys are a nests made out of sticks and leaves in trees and dense shrub layers. Ringtails will also live in house roofs, sheds, garages and above roller doors but only if there is not enough habitat left for them outside because too many trees have been chopped down or cleared. In this case artificial habitats can be installed for them such as nest boxes. However, it is important for people to know that both ring tail and brush tail possums are too often blamed for noises and droppings in their roof when in actual fact they are black rats.

Ecological Benefits

All our wildlife species play an important ecological function. In the case of ringtails they
provide;
– fuel reduction, by consuming diseased leaf that would otherwise fall to the ground
increasing fine fuels, which is a great threat for bushfire.
– Decomposition from their scats which enhances the breakdown of fine fuels.
– Pest control by consuming the overabundance of damaging insects in trees.

Threats

While many natural predators have become mostly locally extinct in urban areas, some still exist such as the Powerful Owl. However there are a whole new range of unnatural predators and dangers that now exists in our urban environment which are;
Electrocution is quite common amongst possums as they use power lines to get around
to feed and move to and from their homes. Similarly, barb wire fences are also a problem
to ringtails as many of them get caught in the wire.
Habitat fragmentation is clearly the greatest threat to their environment and leaves
wildlife like ringtails stranded in isolated pockets
Cats and dogs (domestic), and in particular cats. Please keep your cats in at night as they
kill ringtails or cause horrific injuries to them.
Foxes and feral cats
Fruit netting thrown loosely over bushes or trees. If you are going to put a net over a fruit tree, make a box around the tree and tightly place a net with a fine mesh over it. If you don’t eat fruit from the tree, please reconsider the need for a net.
Poisoning and trapping is an issue that should not exist but unfortunately too often illegally occurs. Ringtail possums are a protected species.
Then there is climate change, heat waves and storms which are becoming major issues. Ringtails really suffer from heat waves, their dreys provide no protection from the heat.
As a consequence they become dehydrated, their kidneys shut down and thousands will die. With more frequent heatwaves and storms, there is an increasing loss of possums and their habitat.

 

What you can do

– Membership, please JOIN the Australian Wildlife Protection Council so we can continue to advocate on behalf of our wildlife.

– Rescue, if you see an injured ringtail please call your local wildlife shelter for assistance. On extreme hot days, water plants early in the morning and leave water out. Please don’t feed possums.

Retain large trees and shrubs. When these are removed, fauna like ringtails are left homeless. This is why ringtail and brushtail possums often move into people’s roofs.  If you have no other option but to remove or cut back large remnant vegetation, please install a couple of nest boxes,

– Plant indigenous plants which provide habitat and food. The possums will have a `variety of food and it will also provide habitat for other species of wildlife.

– Responsible pet ownership is really important, not only for ringtails, but also a great variety of wildlife including micro bats, but mostly to birds, frogs, reptiles and sugar gliders which could be killed or injured especially by cats! Pet regulations will vary from council to council. However it is recommended to keep your pets confined to your property and keep cats inside at night. This is not only good for local wildlife
but for your pets too, as they are less like to get lost, killed or injured and cause your family unnecessary anxiety, vet bills or pound fees.

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