Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Possum twins

The female Common Brushtail Possum Trichosurus vulpecula which lives in our back garden,
 with a single youngster

October is the time for the local brushtail possums in Canberra to be carrying their large young around. We have two females in our garden, shared with our human neighbours, and they both have young. One has the usual single youngster, but the other has twins, which is uncommon. It seems that it is also rare for both young to survive. However, these twins seem to be growing well and it looks like they will both survive.

The neighbouring female in the front garden walking across the drive with her twins on her back

I often go out at night watching for wildlife, and it is noticeable how I have spent hours in the local woods and only seen a few possums in that time. Then when I walk back through the adjacent suburbia, I seem to see a possum in every other garden. This and the set of twins (I have seen possums with twins in the garden before) are signs that there is good feeding to be had for possums around humans. They are one species that is a successful urban survivor.

Doubled up on top

The youngsters have a yellow/orange tinge to their fur which gradually fades to the grey of the adults, as can be seen by the difference in colour between the larger and smaller twins.

The twins are growing fast and putting on weight
The twins can climb already as I have watched them follow their mum as they walked along the branches, but they still take the easy option and travel on their mother's back whenever they can, which is still most of the time. I think that will soon stop.

There is no easy way to climb down a tree with twins on your back
Especially if they make climbing difficult for their mother, for such encumbrance would in  the long run make the whole family vulnerable to predators. So the next stage of evolutionary behaviour will kick in soon and they will have to become more independent. Then we will have three more possums galloping across our roof at night. Mmmmmmm, a bit noisy.

Those prehensile tails can be a nuisance sometimes