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The western ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus occidentalis) is a small to medium sized leaf-eating arboreal marsupial, with adults weighing approximately 700g to 1.3kg, a head/body length of 30-40cm and a tail as long as its body.  Its tail is strongly prehensile which is used to support the possum while foraging in the tree canopy.

The western ringtail possum is a threatened species under State and Commonwealth legislation. In Western Australia the species is listed as Critically Endangered fauna under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016. Nationally it is also listed as Critically Endangered under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, and internationally is on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered.

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Western ringtail possum. Photo © Adrian Wayne/DBCA

Where are western ringtail possums found?

Western ringtail possums are only found in the south-west of Western Australia. They can be found as far north as Dawesville near Mandurah extending down the coast from Bunbury to the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, in the Upper Warren area near Manjimup and east to Waychinicup National Park near Albany.

The western ringtail possum is a shy animal that is rarely seen on the ground unlike its more regularly encountered relative, the common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula). Ringtails spend most of their time in trees (arboreal), particularly in the canopy of peppermint (Agonis flexuosa) woodland and eucalypt forests. They feed on leaves and like to forage for food at night (nocturnal). They build nests or resting places called ‘dreys’ from the foliage and also use tree hollows.

In urban areas ringtail possums will live in roof spaces of houses, sheds and other buildings and eat garden plants including roses and fruit trees.

How to spot a western ringtail possum

The western ringtail possum is characterised by its dark brown fur with a cream or grey chest and stomach, short rounded ears and very long, thin, white-tipped tail, with very short hair on the tail. A white tip on the tail is not a distinguishing feature for a ringtail possum as brushtail possums can also have a white-tipped tail as shown in the photos below. Brushtail possums can have a very bushy tail or a tail with hair that is the same length as the rest of the body, and the tail tip can be black or white. Both the ringtail and brushtail possum can curl their tails into a ring-like shape to hold on to branches.

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    Brushtail possum
    Photo © M. Hovens
    iamsafari.com
  • westernringtailcompare
    Western ringtail possum
    Photo © Adrian Wayne
    Parks and Wildlife 

What are the main threats to the western ringtail possum?

  • Habitat destruction and fragmentation
  • Predation by introduced predators (foxes and feral cats)
  • Death by car strike and domestic pets
  • Altered fire regimes and the effects of drought

How you can help?

Report sightings of western ringtail possums by sending us a fauna report form

If you think you have western ringtail possums living in your area there are a few things you can do to help conserve this species:

  • Drive carefully to avoid vehicle strikes, particularly at night
  • Retain and plant peppermint trees which are an important food item
  • Avoid chemicals and baits that can be harmful to possums
  • Keep domestic pets contained, particularly at night
  • Do not feed possums

Recovery plan and habitat assessment

Department of Parks and Wildlife (2017). Western Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus occidentalis) Recovery PlanWildlife Management Program No. 58. Department of Parks and Wildlife, Perth, WA. 

Shedley E and Williams K (2014) pdfAn assessment of habitat for western ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus occidentalis) on the southern Swan Coastal Plain 1.9 MB . Unpublished report for the Department of Parks and Wildlife, Bunbury, Western Australia.

Further Information


In 2017 the western ringtail possum recovery plan was updated coinciding with a reassessment of the conservation of the species leading to a threat status assignment of Critically Endangered using IUCN criteria. To support the implementation of the recovery plan, the Western Ringtail Possum Recovery Team also reconvened in 2017 after stakeholder support was indicated in a species-focused forum.

The recovery team includes representatives from community and natural resource management groups, veterinary representatives, utility organisations, tertiary institutions and State Government departments. The purpose of the team is to facilitate and oversee the implementation of recovery actions with the plan. The team currently is focused on ensuring consistency in monitoring and survey methodologies, identifying and targeting research gaps, supporting on-ground conversation action, ensuring best practice wildlife rehabilitation, and understanding conservation status and trends across the species range.

Western ringtail possum Pia Courtis
Western ringtail possum. Photo © Pia Courtis/DBCA

Projects

Nature Conservation Margaret River Region is a natural resource group operating in the south-west of Western Australia. The group undertakes a number of conservation activities, including a current project focused on conservation actions for the western ringtail possum.

The Oyster Harbour Catchment Group and Torbay Catchment Group are located on the south coast of Western Australia and coordinate natural resource management across Albany and its hinterland. Both groups have projects focused on improving the understanding of the south coast sub-population of western ringtail possum.