Brushtail Possum

Also known as:

General description

Marsupial with long bushy tail, prominent ears, pointed nose and large dark eyes. Fur is soft and thick, colour varies widely from brownish grey to almost black. Belly fur can vary from white to ginger. Males are larger and heavier than females. Nocturnal.

Scat are dark brown oblong pellets up to 30mm with slightly pointed ends.
Runs evident as trampled paths through long grass.
Bite marks and claw scratches on tree trunks.
Browsed leaves have torn not cut edges often with midrib remaining. Often leave partly eaten fruit and foliage on ground.

Wide habitat range including native bush, exotic forest, urban areas, farmland, coastal fringes. Found throughout the mainland and on Kawau Island but absent from all other islands in the Auckland region.

In mild climates will breed all year round. Usually one offspring is reared at a time with weaning occurring at 6 months. Males will then distribute widely to new territories while females tend to stay localised.

Eat leaves, fruit and flowers of many native plants. Favoured trees such as fuchsia, kamahi, rata and kohekohe may be devastated over wide areas. Also regularly eat invertebrates such as weta and snails, and are known to eat the chicks and eggs of native birds (e.g. kokako, kereru). A single possum can eat more than 60 native Powelliphanta snails in one night. Also feed on the carcasses of deer, rodents and other possums. Serious problem for agriculture and horticulture. They also carry and spread bovine tuberculosis (Tb).

Site management

Regular trapping or poisoning is required as possums will move back into areas already controlled.

Recommended approaches

1. Trapping using kill trap or cage trap.
2. Poisoning with pesticide placed in bait stations - various options see 'Choosing the right bait' for information.
3. Night shooting.
4. For the protection of native species or in large areas it is advisable to monitor. See our guidelines on Intensive control programmes and Browse calendar to achieve best results. Please contact your local Biosecurity Officer for advice on your situation

Caution: when using any herbicide or pesticide PLEASE READ THE LABEL THOROUGHLY to ensure that all instructions and safety requirements are followed.

RPMS status

Animal Pest - Whole Region
Hauraki Gulf Controlled Area pest
brushtail possum - Main species image