Australia’s possums and gliders

Tue, 09 Jul 2019

There are 27 different types of possums and gliders in Australia. They have a huge variety of sizes, shapes and appearances. We’ve compiled a profile on every species here. One quarter of our possums and gliders are listed as threatened under Australian environmental law. Help their conservation, be a citizen scientist: you can record sightings of possums from your local areas in the free CAUL Urban Wildlife App.

Mountain Pygmy-possum


Name: 
Mountain Pygmy-possum (Burramys parvus Burramyidae)

Description: Very tiny possum that hibernates in Winter under boulder fields. Grey brown fur on back, brown-cream on underside. Dark ring around eye. HB: 111mm T: 136-138mm

Ecology: Habitat: Australia's sub-alpine and alpine heathlands and shrublands among boulder heaps. Diet: Insects, other arthropods, seeds.

Threats: Climate change, introduced predators.

Conservation Status:  Commonwealth EPBC Act: Endangered, NSW: Endangered, VIC: Critically Endangered

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: LAOKO Snowy Monaro Wildlife Rescue 02 6456 1313; Wildlife Rescue Inc (WRI) Australia Hotline 1300 596 457; Australian Fauna Care

Photo credit: Tim Bawden  



Long-tailed Pygmy-possum



Name: 
Long-tailed Pygmy-possum (Cercartetus caudatus Burramyidae)

Description: Tiny possum of the wet tropics. Brownish grey on back, pale grey on belly. Black eye patches are distinct and they have crinkly ears. HB: 103-108mm T: 128-151mm 

Ecology: Habitat: rainforest, eucalypt and casuarina habitats in North Queensland between Townsville and Cooktown. These possums rely on hollows, fern clumps and cavities for nesting. Diet: Nectar, insects. 

Threats: Habitat loss and fragmentation, introduced predators.

Conservation Status: QLD: Least Concern

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: Zoos Victoria

Photo credit: Anders Zimny



Little Pygmy-possum


Name:
Little Pygmy-possum (Cercartetus LepidusBurramyidae)

Description: Tiny possum of SE Australian eucalypt forest. Pale fawn fur on back, grey fur on belly. Large ears and furry tail. HB: 50-73mm T: 60-75mm 

Ecology: Habitat: wet and dry eucalypt in Tasmania and NW Victoria and SE South Australia, including Kangaroo Island. Nests on or above the ground. Diet: Nectar, pollen, insects other arthropods.

Threats: Habitat loss and fragmentation, cats (feral and domestic), inappropriate fire regimes.

Conservation Status: VIC: Near Threatened

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: Far North Queensland Wildlife Rescue (07) 4053 4467 (24-hour hotline); Wildlife Rescue Inc (WRI) Australia Hotline 1300 596 457; Australian Fauna Care

Photo credit: Tim Bawden


 
Western Pygmy-possum


Name:
Western Pygmy-possum (Cercartetus concinnus Burramyidae)

Description: Tiny possum of SW Australia. Fawn to red-brown above and white on underside. Uncommon but not extremely rare. Can be seen in urban areas and natural areas alike. HB: 64-106mm T: 53-101mm

Ecology: Habitat: dry eucalypt, heath and woody shrublands. Found from western Victoria to Southern Western Australia. Diet: Insects, nectar.

Threats: Habitat loss and fragmentation for urban development and agriculture, cats (feral and domestic).

Conservation Status: VIC: Near Threatened, NSW: Endangered

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: Conservation

Photo credit: Stewart McDonald


 
Eastern Pygmy-possum


Name:
Eastern Pygmy-possum (Cercartetus nanus Burramyidae)

Description: Very small possum of Eastern Australia. Grey to brown above, white/grey below. Ears large and round. Tail is chunky where it joins body. HB: 70-110mm T: 75-105mm

Ecology: Habitat: heath, swampland and eucalypt forest from SE Queensland to far SE South Australia. Diet: Nectar, pollen, fruit, insects.

Threats: Habitat loss and fragmentation, cats (feral and domestic), inappropriate fire regimes.

Conservation Status: NSW: Vulnerable, VIC: Near Threatened, SA: Vulnerable
 
Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: Tree Kangaroo and Mammal Group

Photo credit: Phil Spark CC BY 2.0 wikimedia commons



Striped possum


Name:
Striped possum (Dactylopsila trivirgata Petauridae)

Description: Black and white stripes on back with white Y pattern on forehead. White below. Fluffy tail, tip usually white. Boisterous species that is noisy in canopy. HB: 256-270mm T: 310-345mm

Ecology: Habitat: rainforests and eucalyptus forests of North Queensland from near Townsville to the Iron Range. Diet: Ants, termites, other insects, fruits, leaves.

Threats: Habitat loss and fragmentation.

Conservation Status: Not listed

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: North Queensland Conservation Council

Photo credit: Jasmine Vink



Leadbeater's Possum


Name:
Leadbeater's possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri Petauridae)

Description: Similar to sugar glider, but has no membranous tissue between forelimbs and hind limbs. Grey to brown fur above with pale underside. Highly threatened. HB: 150-170mm T:145-180mm

Ecology: Habitat: Mountain Ash forests in the Victorian highlands. Also requires an understorey of Acacia (wattles). Diet: Insects, other arthropods, plant sap, wattle gum.

Threats: Habitat loss and fragmentation.

Conservation Status: Commonwealth EPBC Act: Critically Endangered, VIC: Endangered

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: Injured and Orphaned Wildlife Program on 03 6165 4305 (business hours); Bonorong Wildlife Rescue 0447 264 625 (all hours); Wildlife Rescue Inc (WRI) Australia Hotline 1300 596 457; Australian Fauna Care

Photo credit: Tim Bawden



Yellow-bellied Glider


Name:
 Yellow-bellied Glider (Petaurus australis Petauridae)
 
Description: Grey on back white/cream/yellow below. Dark stripe on thighs and back. Similar to sugar, mahogany and squirrel gliders, but larger. Vocal - high pitched and rattling sounds. Group living. HB: 240-310mm T: 380-460mm

Ecology: Habitat: fragmented range in eucalypt forests from north Queensland to eastern Victoria. Diet: Eucalypt sap, pollen, nectar, insects.

Threats: Habitat loss and fragmentation, direct mortality during logging, barbed wire.

Conservation Status: Commonwealth EPBC Act: Vulnerable, QLD: Vulnerable, NSW: Vulnerable, SA: Endangered

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: Conservation:
 
Photo credit: Jasmine Zeleny



Sugar Glider


Name:
Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps Petauridae)
 
Description: Grey-brown on back with black strip from mid back-line to forehead. Cream to grey below. Large pointed ears. Dark grey tail, sometimes white tipped. Group living. HB: 160-210mm T: 165-210mm

Ecology: Habitat: rainforest, eucalyptus and woodland, anywhere hollows present for nesting and roosting. Range: northern Western Australia around the coastline to far SE South Australia (including Tasmania). Diet: Wattle gum, nectar, eucalypt pollen, insects.

Threats: Habitat loss and fragmentation, cats (feral and domestic), loss of hollows due to land clearing.

Conservation Status: SA: Rare

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: Zoos Victoria
 
Photo credit: Tim Bawden



Mahogany Glider


Name:
Mahogany Glider (Petaurus gracilis Petauridae)

Description: Mostly solitary glider of mahogany brown to grey above with dark stripe from forehead along back. Tail is dark with dark tip. Pale apricot to buff on belly. HB: 225-275mm T: 335-405mm

Ecology: Habitat: very small distribution from Ingham to Tully in North Queensland. Found in coastal paperbark swamps and grasstree woodland. Diet: Nectar, eucalypt, wattle and grasstree sap, wattle seeds, insects.

Threats: Habitat loss and fragmentation for agriculture, barbed wire, car strikes, cats (feral and domestic).

Conservation Status: Commonwealth EPBC Act: Endangered, QLD: Endangered

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: VIC Environment Victoria

Photo credit: Pfinge at French Wikipedia. CC BY-SA 2.0 wikimedia commons



Squirrel Glider


Name:
Squirrel Glider (Petaurus norfolcensis Petauridae)

Description: Similar to sugar gliders, but larger and generally associated with drier habitats. Grey to brown on back and pale cream below. Unlike sugar gliders, tail is never white-tipped. Group living. HB: 180-230mm T: 220-300mm

Ecology: Habitat: dry eucalypt and woodland, coastal forests and wet eucalypt. Found from North Queensland down east coast to northern Victoria. Diet: Insects, wattle gum and seeds, eucalypt nectar, sap and pollen.

Threats: Habitat loss and fragmentation, barbed wire, cats (feral and introduced), car strike.

Conservation Status: NSW: Vulnerable, VIC: Endangered, SA: Endangered

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: Western Pygmy-possum please contact the Wildcare Helpline on (08) 9474 9055; Wildlife Rescue Inc (WRI) Australia Hotline 1300 596 457; Australian Fauna Care

Photo credit: Dave Smith



Lemuroid Ringtail Possum


Name:
 Lemuroid Ringtail Possum (Hemibelideus lemuroides Pseudocheiridae)

Description: Chocolate brown to grey on back with yellow/cream below. Some individuals at high altitude can be of white colouration. Light coloured rings around eyes and tip of tail without fur. HB: 315-400mm T: 320-373mm

Ecology: Habitat: highlands of the wet tropics of North Queensland. Rainforest above 450m is key habitat for this species. Diet: Leaves, flowers, fruit.

Threats: Climate change, introduced predators. 

Conservation Status: Not listed

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: Conservation:
 
Photo credit: Wildlife Explorer CC BY 3.0 wikimedia commons



Greater Glider


Name:
Greater Glider (Petauroides Volans Petauridae)
 
Description: Largest glider in Australia, highly variable colouration from rich brown to mottled cream on back. Creamy white below. Large furry fringed ears. Furry tail is very long. HB: 350-460mm T: 450-600mm

Ecology: Habitat: northern Queensland to eastern Victoria (including highlands). Eucalypt forest and woodlands are preferred habitats. Diet: Eucalypt leaves.

Threats: Habitat loss and fragmentation, introduced predators.

Conservation Status: Commonwealth EPBC Act: Vulnerable, QLD: Vulnerable; VIC: Vulnerable

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: The Conservation Council of WA

Photo credit: Jasmine Zeleny



Rock Ringtail Possum


Name:
 Rock Ringtail Possum (Petropseudes dahli Pseudocheiridae)

Description: Social ringtail that does not build a nest for resting during the day. Grey to red-brown on back with a dark stripe from forehead. White below. Found in rocky habitat. HB: 334-383mm T: 200-266mm

Ecology: Habitat: eucalypt woodland and vine forest with rocky habitats with crevices where they rest. Found in the top end from NW Queensland (near NT border) west to northern Western Australia. Diet: Leaves, flowers, fruit.

Threats: Inappropriate fire regimes, introduced predators.
 
Conservation Status: WA: P3

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: South West Catchments Council

Photo credit: Michael J Barritt



Green Ringtail Possum


Name:
Green Ringtail Possum (Pseudochirops archeri Pseudocheiridae)

Description: Green tinge to fur on back. White below. Small round ears and a pink snout. White eye rings white patches near ears as well. Solitary and mostly arboreal. HB: 285-371mm T: 309-372mm

Ecology: Habitat: wet tropics specialist found in North Queensland rainforests above 300m altitude. Diet: Leaves, figs.

Threats: Climate change, introduced predators.

Conservation Status: Not listed

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: Nature Conservation Margaret River Region

Photo credit: Jasmine Vink



Daintree River Ringtail Possum


Name:
Daintree River Ringtail Possum (Pseudochirulus cinereus Pseudocheiridae)
 
Description: Caramel to brown coloured fur on their back, creamy white below. Tail usually white tipped and has very little hair. Darkish stripe can be seen from forehead to down back. HB: 335-368mm T: 320-395mm

Ecology: Habitat: found above 450m in the rainforests of the Daintree. Diet: Leaves, figs.
 
Threats: Climate change, introduced predators.

Conservation Status: Not listed

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: WIRES Wildlife Rescue Hotline on 1300 094 737; Wildlife Rescue Inc (WRI) Australia Hotline 1300 596 457; Australian Fauna Care

Photo credit: Tim Bawden



Herbert River Ringtail Possum


Name:
Herbert River Ringtail Possum (Pseudochirulus herbertensis Pseudocheiridae)

Description: Adults darker than Daintree RRs, juveniles similar. Brown to black above, white on chest. Tails have some fur and white tip. Eyes are more bulged than Daintree RRs, white ring. HB: 301-400mm T: 335-470mm

Ecology: Habitat: found in rainforests above 350m altitude of North Queensland. Diet: Leaves.

Threats: Climate change, introduced predators.
 
Conservation Status: Not listed

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: Conservation:
 
Photo credit: Jasmine Zeleny



Western Ringtail Possum


Name:
Western Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus occidentalis Pseudocheiridae)

Description: Grey to brown above with cream below. Round ears, pink snout. Tail not fluffy and white tipped. Googly bulging eyes. Highly threatened. HB: 300-400mm T: 300-410mm
 
Ecology: Habitat: restricted to the far South West of Australia. Associated with a mix of habitats including eucalypt (jarrah and marri), peppermint woodland and urban habitats also. Diet: Leaves.

Threats: Habitat loss and fragmentation, inappropriate fire regimes and introduced predators.

Conservation Status: Commonwealth EPBC Act: Critically Endangered, WA: Critically Endangered

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: NSW Nature Conservation Council

Photo credit: Steward McDonald



Common Ringtail Possum


Name:
Common Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus Pseudocheiridae)

Description: Variable colouration on back from grey to brown through to reddish brown. Paler fur on belly. Slender tail with white tip and almost furless. Bulging eyes. HB: 300-350mm T: 300-350mm
 
Ecology: Habitat: eastern Australia and Tasmania. Rainforest, eucalypt forest, woodlands and urban gardens. Found in a range of habitats including rainforests, eucalypt forest and woodlands as well as parks and gardens through east of Australia. Diet: Leaves, flowers, fruit.

Threats: Cats (domestic and feral) and foxes.

Conservation Status: Not listed

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: Far North Queensland Wildlife Rescue (07) 4053 4467 (24-hour hotline); Wildlife Rescue Inc (WRI) Australia Hotline 1300 596 457; Australian Fauna Care

Photo credit: Jasmine Zeleny



Honey Possum


Name:
Honey Possum (Tarsipes rostratus Tarsipedidae)

Description: A very small and distinct possum with light brown to grey fur above and featuring three dark stripes down back. Long pointed snout is characteristic of this species. HB: 65-90mm T: 70-100mm

Ecology: Habitat: coastal sandplains from the mid-west coast near Kalbarri to southern coast of Western Australia, eastern limit at Cape Arid. Associated with banksia woodlands. Diet: Leaves, flowers, fruit.

Threats: Habitat loss and fragmentation, cats (domestic and feral) and foxes.

Conservation Status: Not listed

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: Conservation

Photo credit: Jannico Kelk



Feathertail Glider


Name:
 Feathertail Glider (Acrobates pygmaeus or Acrobates frontalis Acrobatidae)

Description: Two tiny glider species that look very similar to the naked eye and co-occur through much of the south east coast. Both with grey-brown fur above and creamy white below. Hairs down either side of the tail give a feather look. Large dark eyes and pointed snout with gliding membrane between knees and elbows. Only the hind feet are key to differentiating these two species, with A. frontalis having heart shaped toe pads on their hind feet. If observed in Qld, it is likely to be A. frontalis. HB: 65-80mm T: 70-88mm

Ecology: Habitat: Found in a range of habitats including rainforests, eucalypt forest and woodlands as well as parks and gardens through east of Australia. Two similar looking species that co-occur along the south east coast. Only the hind feet are key to differentiating these two species, with A. frontalis having heart shaped toe pads on their hind feet. If observed in Qld, it is likely to be A. frontalis. Diet: Nectar, pollen, eucalyptus sap, insects.

Threats: Habitat loss and fragmentation, cats (domestic and feral).

Conservation Status: SA: Endangered

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: Tree Kangaroo and Mammal Group

Photo credit: Jasmine Vink



Common Spotted Cuscus


Name:
Common Spotted Cuscus (Spilocuscus maculatus Phalangeridae)

Description: Large bulging eyes, prehensile tail and a solid build. Ears are very small. Grey fur above and cream below. Pale patches may be present on the backs of males. HB: 348-580mm T:310-435mm

Ecology: Habitat: northern Cape York associated with rainforests, mangroves and open eucalypt forest. Males can be aggressive towards each other. Diet: Fruit, flowers, leaves, insects, small birds and bird eggs.

Threats: Climate change, introduced predators.

Conservation Status: Not listed

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: North Queensland Conservation Council (NQCC)

Photo credit: Aviceda CC BY-SA 3.0 wikimedia commons


 
Southern Common Cuscus


Name:
Southern Common Cuscus (Phalanger mimicus Phalangeridae)

Description: Shorter tail than the Common Spotted Cuscus. Grey brown with white flecks, dark strip down the back from the forehead. Bulging eyes, medium sized ears. Prehensile tail without fur. HB: 350-400mm T: 280-350mm

Ecology: Habitat: small range in the tropical rainforests on the east coast of Cape York Peninsula. Diet: Fruit, flowers, leaves, insects, small birds and bird eggs.

Threats: Climate change, introduced predators.

Conservation Status: Not listed

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: Wildlife Victoria or 03 8400 7300
 
Photo credit: Czdenek CC BY-SA4.0 wikimedia commons



Short-eared Brushtail Possum


Name:
 Short-eared Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus caninus Phalangeridae)
 
Description: Dark grey fur above and white on underside. Tail is dark and bushy with naked strip on underside. Short rounded ears. HB: 400-500mm T: 340-420mm

Ecology: Habitat: montane areas of the Great Dividing Range from SE Queensland to central New South Wales. Associated with subtropical rainforest and eucalypt forest. Diet: Leaves, fruit, flowers, seeds, fungi, lichen, bark.
 
Threats: Climate change, introduced predators.

Conservation Status: Not listed

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: Wildlife Rescue Inc (WRI) Australia Hotline 1300 596 457; Australian Fauna Care

Photo credit: Czdenek CC BY-SA4.0 wikimedia commons


 
Mountain Brushtail Possum


Name:
Mountain Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus cunninghami Phalangeridae)
 
Description: Grey brown above and white to cream below. A dark bushy tail and flatter snout than similar species. HB: 490-540mm T: 340-370mm

Ecology: Habitat: densley forested areas in the Great Dividing Range from central New South Wales to central Victoria, associated with Silver Wattle woodlands also. Similar in appearance to Common Brushtail Possums and Short-eared Brushtail Possums. Differentiated from the Short-eared by having a more southern range and from Common Brushtails by having smaller ears and a larger body size. Diet: Leaves, fungi, fruiting truffles.

Threats: Climate change, introduced predators.

Conservation Status: Not listed
 
Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: Conservation

Photo credit: Judy Leitch



Common Brushtail Possum


Name:
Common Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula Phalangeridae)

Description: Silver grey above with white to cream on the belly. Large ears are characteristic for this species. Fur on tail is bushy but underside is almost fur free. HB: 350-550mm T: 250-400mm

Ecology: Habitat: diverse habitats of rainforest, eucalypt forest, woodlands and urban areas. Diet: Leaves, flowers, fruit, sees, insects, small birds and eggs sometimes.

Threats: Introduced predators.

Conservation Status: SA: Rare, NT: Endangered (Northern Brushtail Not Threatened)

Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: FRIENDS OF LEADBEATER'S POSSUM

Photo credit: Guy Castley



Scaly-tailed Possum


Name:
Scaly-tailed Possum (Wyulda squamicaudata Phalangeridae)
 
Description: Pale grey above underside is pale cream. Tail is almost covered in small knobbly bumps. Spends the daytime in crevices in rocky outcrops. HB: 310-395mm T: 300mm
 
Ecology: Habitat: eucalypt and monsoon forest with rocky outcrops on the northern coast on Western Australia's Kimberley region. Diet: Flowers, fruits, leaves, insects.

Threats: Inappropriate fire regimes, introduced predators, mining.

Conservation Status: WA: P4
 
Wildlife Carers and Advocacy: Zoos Victoria

Photo credit: Liz Tasker

Top image: Mahogany Glider ( Petaurus gracilis Petauridae). Image: Pfinge at French Wikipedia. CC BY-SA 2.0 wikimedia commons   
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