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31. Western Ringtail Possum

Pseudocheirus occidentalis

About

The Western ringtail possum has been synonymised with P. peregrinus (common ringtail possum) in eastern Australia, and are arboreal marsupial (tree living) which live in the canopy of peppermint woodlands and eucalypt forests.

The Western ringtail possum is characterised by its dark brown fur with a cream or grey chest and stomach, short rounded ears and very long, thin, white-tipped tail, with very short hair on the prehensile tail which is used to support the possum while foraging in the tree canopy.

This species lives in an area <500km² in small and severely fragmented subpopulations in coastal areas near Nunbury to the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park.

With the Western ringtail possum having a very specific habitat and dietary requirements, with a poor ability to migrate, climate change is a large threat to this species. The drying climate which is causing the nutritional quality of food to decrease and an increase in temperature can cause this species to overheat. Additional threats include predation by red foxes and feral cats, fire, decrease in habit area due to land clearing and logging and habitat fragmentation due to urbanisation.

There is currently a recovery plan in action which included monitoring and research into the effects of climate change.

  • Order: Diprotodontia
  • Family: Pseudocheiridae
  • Trend: decreasing
  • Weight: 1330g (?)

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 5.68 (?)
ED Score: 17.26 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct

Distribution

The extent of occurrence of Western Ringtail Possums has contracted in the past and severely contracted in the recent past, and it is now almost exclusively restricted to coastal and near coastal Peppermint woodland between the Australind – Eaton area and Waychinicup National Park.  

There are five subpopulations: ‘Southern Swan Coastal Plain’, ‘Cape to Cape’ (Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin), ‘Other Forest Rivers’, ‘Upper Warren’ and ‘Around Albany’. 

Habitat and Ecology

The diet of the Western Ringtail Possum is variable. When available, Peppermint leaves form the majority of the diet. In their absence, the dominant myrtaceous species are preferred (for example eucalyptus) –  The Upper Warren area had the only known sites where Western Ringtail Possums recently persisted in significant numbers in the absence of Peppermint. In urban areas possums are known to feed on a variety of garden species, including rose bush leaves and flowers and a variety of fruits. 

Where protection from introduced predators is provided, a wide range of nest sites on or near the ground has been recorded. In the absence of predator control and in the absence of Peppermint or other nesting/drey material, or where fire is frequent, tree hollows and hollow logs are used almost exclusively, although urban animals will use roof spaces and other shelter. 

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