A Western Pygmy Possum has recently been found by a landholder south of Cunderdin, in a patch of bush he has been rehabilitating as part of a project funded by Wheatbelt NRM. Although the possum had sadly drowned while seeking water to drink, the landholder is heartened that the revegetation activities he has undertaken will help to support populations of this species on his property into the future. In light of this discovery, here are some interesting facts about this “cute-as-a-button” marsupial.
The Western Pygmy-possum is soft brown or grey-brown with reddish-tinged fur on is back and has a finely-scaled, hairless, prehensile tail which it uses to avoid movement through foliage. It has large eyes and soft, delicate ears that fold down when it is asleep. Nectar is an important energy source and pollen provides readily digested protein which forms much of its diet, along with insects and other small arthropods.
Each year, the female can produce two or three litters of up to six young, which stay in the pouch for 25 days, then remain in the nest while the mother forages. To conserve energy when it is cold or when food is limited, the possum can go into torpor, dropping its body temperature and entering a deep sleep.
Aside from the possum’s natural predators being owls, snakes, goannas and quolls, introduced species such as feral cats, foxes and dogs have increased the pressure of predation of this marsupial. The most significant threat, however, is habitat degradation and land clearing for agriculture, development and forestry, as this species spends its life nesting, feeding and breeding in trees and shrubs.
Photo: W Lawler/AWC