Trichosurus vulpecula

Threats Status

Unwanted Organism

Common Name(s)

Brushtail possum, Brush tailed possum




Brushtailed possum have very broad habitat requirements and thus can be found in a diverse range of habitats with rainfall from 350 mm to >8000 mm/year and altitudes up to 2400 m. They mainly feed on leaves although at times bark, buds, flowers, fruits fungi and invertebrates can be a large proportion of their diet as well.


Brushtail possum are about the size of cats’ with a dense bushy tail, a pointed snout and long pointed ears. Their coat colour varies from grey to black

Threat To Plants

Selective browsing of favoured palatable plant species (particularly podocarps such as tôtara and pâhautea) may lead to extensive defoliation of the canopy and changing vegetation composition. Prey on invertebrates and the young and eggs of birds may also have secondary effects on the vegetation due to changes in ecosystem processes.


Throughout the North and South Island, except in parts of the northern Auckland province and parts of the south Westland and western Fiordland, around the mountain tops of Mount Taranaki and Ruapehu and in the upper catchments of rivers in north-west Otago and South Canterbury.


Weight: 1,4-6,4kg; body length: 650-950mm

Year Introduced


Reason For Introduction

Fur trade

Colonisation History

First introduced to New Zealand in Riverton, Southland in the 1830s by Captain J. Howell, yet this release remained unsuccessful. The first succeeded introduction was accomplished at the same place in 1858 by C. Basstian. In the following year, in particularly between 1890 and 1900 possums were released in large numbers in both the North and South Island by the region acclimatisation societies. Dispersal was assisted by the legal/illegal release of New Zealand-bred progeny of the original introductions which reached its peak between 1890 and 1940. As a result of the increasing recognition of the negative effects of possums on the native forest releases later than 1922 were mainly undertaken illegally.