Australia is a home for various species of native possums. There are approximately twenty-three known species that can be found in the region. The Australian possums are marsupials and belong to the Phalangeridae family. Possums are protected under the Wildlife Act 1975 due to their native origin.

Amongst the species roaming the forests at night, there are two kinds well known to invade private properties in the cities and seek refuge on rooftops and attics.

The Common Brushtail Possum

Image source: Wikimedia

The common brushtail possum or Trichosurus vulpecula is a nocturnal, semi-arboreal marsupial native to Australia. It's part of the Phalangeridae family and is the second-largest possum found and the most widespread marsupial in Australia.

The possum's diet mainly consists of leaves, but are known to eat insects and small mammals such as rodents. Their favourite food is leaves from the eucalyptus.


The common brushtail possum has large and pointy ears. The tail is bushy with a naked and pointy end. This is because possums mainly use it to grasp branches and to climb trees. The forefeet have sharp and long claws. The thumbs on their hind feet are clawless and are used mainly for grasping.

The possums have thick and woolly fur and can be found in four colour variations: black, brown, silver-grey and golden-brown.

The head and body length is between 35-58cm with a tail length 25-40cm. Their weight varies between 1-5kg. Females are generally smaller than males. The fur of the males is reddish-brown at their shoulders. As the brushtail possums are marsupials, the female has a developed pouch on their abdomen.


The common brushtail possum has mostly single lifestyle. Possums use their scent and urine to mark their territory and keep their fellow species away. Brushtail possums are usually not aggressive towards each other. They warm each other by staring with erect ears and making hisses, alarm chatters and screeching.

Life Cycle:

The brushtail possum can breed at any time of the year, but reproduction peaks in spring and autumn. The mating process is entirely random - some males can mate with a couple of females, and some with none.

The pregnancy period of the females last between 15-18 days; after that, they give birth to a single newborn. The young one is only 1.5 cm long and weighs 2-3g. The newborn will climb into the mother's pouch for another 4-5 months. When it's old enough, the little one is left in the mother's den and rides her back for another 2-3 months.

Females tend to have a higher survival rate than the male ones due to the fact that females establish their homes close to their mothers, unlike the males who travel far away.

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The Common Ringtail Possum

The common ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus) is an Australian marsupial that can be found on the east coast of Australia, Tasmania and parts of southwestern Australia. They prefer tropical forest. The ringtail possum is less widespread than the brushtail possum, but it can still find its way to urban areas.

The ringtail possums eat a variety of leaves, flowers and seeds. These possums are known to consume a particular type of faeces generated throughout the day when it’s sleeping in the nest. This behaviour is similar to the one seen in rabbits.


The common ringtail possum is smaller than the brushtail possum. Its weight varies between 0.5-1.5kg, and it’s between 30-35cm long when fully grown. The tail is strong and approximately 30cm long. Same as the brushtail possums, they use their tail to help them climb trees.

The ringtail possum has black or grey fur with white patches behind their eyes and on their belly. The tip of the tail is distinctive white.


Unlike the brushtail possums, the ringtail possums live in social groups, usually sharing communal nests. They nest in tree hollows and build their nests from branches. One nest is generally made for adult female and male. These possums as territorial and will drive any intruder away. They communicate with each other vocally with high-pitched calls.

Life Cycle:

Depending on the area, the mating season of the ringtail possums can happen between April and December. The pregnancy lasts around 28 days. On average the litter may consist of two newborns. Although triplets are happening occasionally.

The young ones grow relatively slow due to the low amount of milk that is provided to them. The lactation period may last up to 7 months. The longer lactation time gives the little ones time to learn to climb and communicate vocally with their parents.

Image credit:Wikimedia

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