Mountain Brushtail Possum

Trichosurus caninus

Initially introduced from the Australian mainland in the late 1800's to help develop a fur trade in the New Zealand market-place. Unfortunately the fur-trade, as such, never eventuated leaving New Zealand with one of its worse environmental dilemmas.

Today there are over 60,000,000 (Yes, 60 Million!) of the creatures crawling all over New Zealand.

The Possum destroys our native forests by denuding the trees and shrubs of all new leaf growth. Eventually the tree dies through light and food deprivation. The Possum then moves up the hill to the next tree and the process starts all over again. Large strings of dead trees can be seen rising up the hill- sides, especially as you travel into West Coast forests. This leads eventually to severe erosion problems, and habitat for other native creatures being destroyed.

The Possum is also known to raid our ground bird nesting sites of their eggs, this has a marked effect on the local Kiwi population.

To attempt to constrain the problem in Arthur's Pass National Park we allow trapping, shooting and poisoning of Possums (you must have a hunting / trapping or poisoning permit).


Some Possum Facts

The Mountain Brushtail Possum, an Australian native is abundant in most tall and closed forests throughout its range from southeastern Queensland to southern Victoria, east of the Great Dividing Range (the Blue Mountains), Australia.

It is a robust Possum (unfortunately for us) with has a remarkably uniform steely grey colour throughout its range in New Zealand.

It feeds extensively on leaves of mesophyllic shrubs, fruits, buds, fungi, lichens, and even the bark of trees. Dens are located in hollow spouts, branches, trunks, or logs.

The sexes are similar in appearance but females live longer (up to 17 years) than males (up to 12 years).

In Australia the Possum's natural enemies include Pythons, Foxes and Dingoes, in New Zealand it has none, excepting man.

When pressed the Mountain Brushtail is a very competent swimmer, hence its range in New Zealand is not constricted.


The breeding season extends from March to May. Two year old females can reproduce but seldom rear their young beyond the pouch stage, being more successful in their third and subsequent years. Some adult females do not reproduce each year while others may have a second young if the first dies.

After a gestation period of 15-17 days a single young is born. It spends 5 to 6 months in the pouch, and continues to suckle for a further 1 to 2 months. Juveniles, after weaning, remain the area in which they were born for 18 - 36 months old.

Adult males and females occur in equal numbers in an area which suggests that a degree of pairing occurs.

Reference : How, R.A. (1981)

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