Possum

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Phalangeroidea

Petauroidea

A possum (plural form: possums) is any of about 69 small to medium-sized arboreal marsupial species native to Australia, New Guinea, and Sulawesi (and introduced to New Zealand and China).

Possums are quadrupedal diprotodont marsupials with long tails. The smallest possum, indeed the smallest diprotodont marsupial, is the Little Pygmy Possum with an adult head-body length of 70mm and a weight of 10g. The largest is the Bear Cuscus that may exceed 7 kg. Possums are typically nocturnal and at least partially arboreal. The various species inhabit most vegetated habitats and a few species have adjusted well to urban settings. Diets range from generalist herbivores or omnivores (the Common Brushtail possum) to specialist browsers of eucalyptus (Greater Glider), insectivores (Mountain Pygmy Possum) and nectar-feeders (Honey Possum).

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Interaction with humans

The animal has been a part of Australian culture and folklore since the original indigenous inhabitants of the country. Aboriginal Australians once used possum hides whilst playing the traditional game of Marn Grook. Possum-skin cloaks were important clothing for Aborigines from the south-east, as well as being important clan heirlooms.

Possums are commonly found in suburban areas, where they are often considered pests owing to their habit of eating fruit, vegetables, flowers and tender young shoots from gardens, and nesting in roofs. The loud hissing, crackling territorial call of the male common brushtail may also be a problem for suburban residents. Natural deterrents, which play upon the possum's acute sense of smell, are often employed to discourage them. These include cloves of garlic, camphor or naphthalene. As a native species in Australia, possums are protected by Australian regulations, even when they reside in urban neighbourhoods, and cannot be baited. If captured, regulations stipulate that they must be released within a small radius of the capture site, as they are territorial creatures. Preventative measures such as blocking off their access to the roof spaces or building a possum nesting box for an alternative home are instead recommended.

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