Common Brushtail Possum
License : Basic
Captive life span : up to 12 years
Size : Head & body length 350-550mm, tail 250-500mm
Weight : 1.2 - 5.0 kilograms
Housing : Aviary
There are six sup-species of the Brushtail Possum in Australia. T.v. vulpecula in central and South eastern Australia. T.v. arnhemensis in the tropical northern Northern Territory and Western Australia. T.v. hypoleucus in south western Western Australia. T.v. eburacensis on Cape York. T.v. johnstonii central eastern Queensland on Atherton Tablelands. T.v. fuliginosus in Tasmania. Head and body length 350-550 mm, tail length 250-400 mm. Weight males 1300-4500g and females 1200-3500g. For many people in urban areas of Australia, the Common Brushtail Possum is a species that due to its noisy and at times destructive behaviour we love to hate. The Common Brushtail Possum has an extensive range and with this comes considerable variations in size and colour across Australia. The Brushtail possum lives 10-11 years in the wild and 8-12 in captivity, with the oldest known animal lived to 17 years. You require a Basic License to keep this species in Victoria. Under current licensing laws sub species are not recognised or required to be listed. Private keepers in Victoria are keeping T.v. vulpecula. T.v. fuliginosus is recognised as a sub-species by some keepers, but it is not common in private collections.
Housing - Brushtail Possums are a relatively easy species to keep. They require a high enclosure and a good size floor area to forage on the ground. Brushies are territorial and mostly solitary, so when considering housing a pair, the larger the enclosure the better. Include a number of nest boxes to reduce potential disputes. DSE minimum enclosure size 10sq metres at 3 metres high for 1 animal with 5sq metre increased floor area for each additional animal. Enclosure sizes from, Jackson are 3.5L x 3.5W x 3H(M) space for each additional animal 2.0L x 2.0W(M). When furnishing the enclosure make sure feeding areas and nest boxes are protected from the weather. Make a base structure of furnishings with vertical and horizontal branches at different heights in the aviary. Natural rope can also be used. Adding larger fresh branches in addition to browse always changes the environment, keeps the animals active and provides the possums with new materials to build their nests with.
Health - As with any species good husbandry practices, clean enclosures, properly fed animals and enclosures not being over crowded, prevent the majority of disease and health issues. The basics to look for in Brushtails is ectoparasites (fleas, mites) endoparasites (worms). Protozoans (toxoplasmosis). As with any captive marsupials relationships can change quickly, with Brushies observational health checks can be the early identifyer for any potential problems. For more in depth health information refer to Australian Mammals Biology and Captive Management by Stephen Jackson.
Diet - Brushtails are folivores eating mainly eucalypt leaves, flowers and fruit. Diet used by Healesville Sanctuary - Daily Diet per animal 3 Eukanbua pet food kibble. ¼ apple, ¼ orange, ¼ banana, ¼ medium carrot, ¼ pear, 15g sliced corn, 6g sprouted seed, 3g green i.e silverbeet, thistle, spinach. ½ kiwi fruit. Supplement 3g egg and chees twice per week. 3g sultanas or sunflower seeds, 3-4 times per week. 1 almond 3-4 times per week. Other season fruits. Fresh acacia and eucalyptus branches as available. Fresh water should be available at all times.
Think about a Brushtail’s diet being a variety of foods, don’t under estimate how omnivores they can be. Apple, banana, carrot, figs dried and fresh, grapes/kiwifruit, and kangaroo cubes. Orange, rock melon, watermelon, spinach, sweet potatoes uncooked, corn uncooked, minced meat/chicks/dog kibble good quality. You can calculate food at 10% of their body weight a night plus 1, being that you have 2 females in the enclosure 3 portions of food should be placed around the enclosure to stop aggressive behaviour. The ratio of vegetable to meat should be 90% vegetation 10% meat product.
Introductions - Brushtail possums are best housed in as a solitary animal or in pairs - usually female and female or female and male. Animals to be introduced together should be introduced into a new enclosure. Most of the time this is not a practical option, wash and clean the enclosure you have and replace all furnishings, replacing nest boxes would also be ideal. Brushtail possums are a very vocal species during introductions and breeding times you will hear loud hissing to deep growling coughs you can expect them to chase one another around the aviary. Brushtails will have a dominance hierarchy and you will see the occasional aggression towards each other. Always monitor your introductions.
Breeding - Brushtail possums breed well in captivity, due their territorial behaviour and size requirements of aviaries to house them it can be difficult to re-home animals. Brushtail possums can breed at any time of the year. Oestrous cycle of the Brushtail Possum is 5 days. The gestation period is 17 – 18 days after mating. At 6 – 7 months or 500grams this is when weaning usually starts. The young spends a lot of time on the mother’s back. When weaning is complete they still stay with the mother for another 3 months.