Order: Marsupialia Family: Phalangeridae
Brushtail Possum Trichosurus vulpecula


Brushtail possum, or Trichosurus vulpecula, from the Latin, meaning hairy tailed little fox.

T. vulpecula is a member of the Order Marsupialia which are pouch bearing mammals (non placental) that give birth to underdeveloped off spring named Joeys. They are born after a 17 day gestation period. At birth they are poorly developed.

The back legs are rudimentary paddles, eyes and ears are completely lacking. New born, weigh 2.0 –3.0 grams, crawl from the mother’s vent along the fur to the pouch, affixes to the teat and suck for about 70 days. After that time it releases the teat for increasing intervals.
Protected in their native Australia, in NZ they are the most voracious and intractable pest– an ecological nightmare.

T.vulpecula are herbivores, feeding on the foliage of native trees in the New Zealand’s forests, of which an estimate 24 million kilograms are devoured each night. As opportunities present themselves, they will also destroy nesting native birds by devouring both their young and eggs.

Adults body length are from tip of nose to tip of tail and range from 650 to 930 mm, and weigh from 1.40 to 6.40 kilograms.

Unusual features found in the skeleton are (1) Skull: The lower jaw inner rear section has a large concave indentation, named the marsupial shelf. This feature characterizes marsupials, and is not found in placental animals (2) Epipubic bones located on the pelvis. (3) Rear limbs, digits 2 & 3 exhibit syndactlylism, are held together by a thin skin. These digits are used to groom the fur. (4) Rear limb: large toe (hallux) used for grasping branches. (5) large prehensile tail.

Note, T. vulpecula is not a protected a protected species in New Zealand, nor CITES listed .