The ringtail possum, along with the common brushtail possum, is a familiar face in Australian backyards. About the size of a large rabbit, they are smaller than brushtail possums and distinguished by their long, white-tipped tails. When they’re not using their prehensile tail to hold onto things, they often carry it curled in a coil, hence the name ringtail. Their fur is light grey with reddish brown tinges, they have a white patch behind the eyes and ears and lighter coloured underbellies. These nocturnal marsupials are arboreal (tree-dwelling) and are very active at night when they forage for food, groom, socialise and jump between branches. During the day family groups retire to spherical nests, about the size of a football, to sleep. The nests are called dreys and they’re made of leaves, grass, twigs, moss and bark, although sometimes tree hollows are also used. When making their nests, the males and females carry building materials with their tails. The possums also have two thumbs on their front feet, which helps them climb.
Common on the east-coast of Australia from Queensland to South Australia and Tasmania, the ringtail possum is also found in the south-west corner of Western Australia. They prefer forests, woodlands, rainforests and shrublands but with habitat loss are increasingly moving into urban areas.
Leaves, especially eucalypts, flowers, nectar and fruit. During the day, the ringtail possum produces faecal pellets, which it then eats. These contain important microorganisms that help the possum digest its food.
After about a year, ringtail possums mate. Between 1-4 young are born, and they attach themselves to one of the four teats in the mother’s pouch. They will suckle and grow for the next four months until they’re ready to leave the pouch. For the next two weeks they’ll live in the nest and be carried on the mother’s – or even father’s – back while they look for food. Within 5-8 months they are weaned, though they’ll often stay with the nest until the next litter comes through.