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Although the common brushtail possum Trichosurus vulpecula Kerr is known to occur throughout most of the eastern parts of mainland Australia, it is now most frequently encountered in the urban and suburban areas of the eastern seaboard and major towns and cities of other states, its distribution and abundance in native forests and woodlands is in decline. The species is perceived as being common in urban and suburban areas: as a result, government departments, pest control businesses and volunteer wildlife organisations commonly receive calls from residents requesting that ‘problem’ brushtail possums be removed from their property; others simply remove the animals themselves, justifying their actions on the grounds that the animals ‘belong in the bush’, despite research showing that the survival rate of translocated possums is low.

In this discussion paper, we briefly review the factors contributing to the number of brushtail possums in urban areas, and review the effectiveness of commonly used deterrents and methods of removing them from a site. In addition, we propose a more positive approach which has two principal objectives: reducing the use of deterrents, trapping, removal, relocation, or euthanasia (where other means of dealing with them have failed) by those who wish to deter possums; and to provide information for residents who wish to encourage brushtail possums into their gardens. This approach is based on the largely untested assumption that it is possible to influence brushtail possum densities based on a site's planting regime. Based on evidence of the relationships between the diet of native arboreal folivores and plant defence mechanisms (which are most pronounced in native plant species), we advocate the use of native tree and shrub species of local provenance in urban and suburban gardens: this may help to maintain brushtail possum densities which are more akin to densities recorded in natural areas than is likely to be the case in horticultural settings. Positive corollaries of this approach are the reduction in the potential for the spread of weed species in urban areas, and the potential to extend available habitat and resources for other native species. A provisional list of plant species is provided (suitable primarily for the eastern mainland states), where species are suggested based on the combined experience and knowledge of wildlife carers, ecologists and scientific literature.

Aldred, J. 1979. Field experiments on population regulation to the brushtail possum Trichosurus vulpecula (Kerr). Hons Thesis. University of Sydney. (Reported in Matthews et al. 2004).
Barlow, N.D. 1994. Predicting the effect of a novel vertebrate biocontrol agent: a model for viral-vectored Immunocontraception of New Zealand possums. Journal Applied Ecology 31: 454-462.
Barnett, J.L., How, R.A. and Humphreys, W.F. 1977. Possum damage to pine plantations in north-eastern New South Wales. pp. 185-195. Australian Forest Resources 7.
Bird, P.L. 1997. A Review of the Ecology of the Common Brushtail Possum Trichosurus vulpecula in South-Eastern Australia. In: Proceedings of ‘Seminar and Workshop on the Management of the Common Brushtail Possum’. Fauna Management Coordinating Committee, Adelaide May 29, 1996.
Bomford, M. 1990. A role for fertility control in wildlife management? Bureau of Rural Resources, Dept. Prim. Ind. and Energy. Bulletin No. 7. Aust. Govt. Printing Service, Canberra.
Brandt, A. 1997. Not in my backyard. Audubon (Sept./Oct 1997) Vol. 99(5): 58-62.
Burchfield, E., Agar, N.S. and Hume, I.D. 2006. Effects of terpenes and tannins on some physiological and biochemical parameters in two species of phalangerid possums (Marsupialia: Phalangeridae). Australian Journal of Zoology 53: 395-402
Chabot, B.F. and Hicks, D.J. 1982. The ecology of leaf life spans. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. Vol. 13: 229-259.
Chapin, F.S. 1980. The mineral nutrition of wild plants. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. Vol. 11: 233-260.
Clinchy, M., Krebs, C.J. and Jarman, P.J. 2001. Dispersal sinks and handling effects: interpreting the role of immigration in common brushtail possum populations. Journal of Animal Ecology 70: 515-526.
Coman, B.J. 1994 A review of methods for the mitigation of browsing damage in Tasmania. Vernox Pest Management Report to the Browsing Animal Review Committee.
Coombe, G.N. 1996. Problems Caused by Common Brushtail Possums and Management Options. In: Proceedings of ‘Seminar and Workshop on the Management of the Common Brushtail Possum’. Fauna Management Coordinating Committee, Adelaide May 29, 1996.
Cowan, P.E. and Moeed A. 1987. Invertebrates in the diet of Brushtail Possums, Trichosurus vulpecula, in lowland podocarp/broadleaf forest, Orongorongo Valley, Wellington, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 14: 163-177.
Cowan, P.E. and Rhodes, D.S. 1992. Restricting the movements of Brushtail Possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) on farmland with electric fencing. Wildlife Research. 19: 47-58.
Cowan, P.E. and Rhodes, D.S. 1993. Electric fences and poison buffers as barriers to movements and dispersal of Brushtail Possums ( Trichosurus vulpecula) on farmland. Wildlife Research 20: 671-686.
Cowan, P.E. 2001. Advances in New Zealand Mammology 1990-2000: Brushtail possum. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, 31(1): 15-29.
Dearing, M.D., Foley, W.J. and McLean, S. 2005. The Influence of Plant Secondary Metabolites on The Nutritional Ecology of Herbivorous Terrestrial Vertebrates. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, Vol. 36: 169-189.
Department of Environment and Conservation. 2004. Living with wildlife - Brush-tailed possum. Viewed at: http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au.
Department of Environment and Heritage (DEH). 1996 Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes. Edited by S. Maxwell, A.A. Burbidge and K. Morris for the Australian Marsupial and Monotreme Specialist Group, IUCN Species Survival Commission.
Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment Tasmania. 2005. Living with Brushtail Possums webpage, viewed at: http://www.dpiwe.tas.gov.au
Department of Sustainability and Environment. 2003 Guidelines for Managing Damage Caused by Common Brushtail Possums in Municipal Parks. Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria, Australia.
Department of Sustainability and Environment. 2005 Living with Possums in Victoria - Questions and Answers. Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria, Australia - webpage viewed at: http://www.dpi.vic.gov.au/dse
Efford, M., Warburton, B. and Spencer, N. 2000. Home-range changes by brushtail possums in response to control. Wildlife Research 27: 117-127.
Eymann, J., Herbert, C.A. and Cooper, D. W. 2005. Management issues of urban brushtail possums ( Trichosurus vulpecula) - a loved or hated neighbour. Australian Mammalogy in press. update
Eymann, J., Herbert, C.A., Cooper, D.W. and Dubey J.P. 2006. Serologic survey for Toxoplasma gondii and Neospora caninum in the common brushtail possums ( Trichosurus vulpecula) from urban Sydney, Australia. Journal of Parasitology 92(2): 267-272.
Freeland, W.J. and Janzen, D.H. 1974. Strategies in herbivory by mammals: the role of plant secondary compounds. American Naturalist 108:269-289.
Freeland, W.J. and Winter, J.W. 1975. Evolutionary consequences of eating: Trichosurus vulpecula and the genus Eucalyptus. Journal of Chemical Ecology 1(4): 439-455.
Gibbons, P. and Lindenmayer, D. 2002 Tree Hollows and Wildlife Conservation in Australia. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Victoria.
Gilbert, J.M. 1961. The effects of browsing by native animals on the establishment of seedlings of Eucalyptus regnans in the Florentine Valley, Tasmania. Australian Forestry 25(2): 116-121.
Gilna, B., Lindenmayer, D.B. and Viggers, K.L. 2005. Dangers of New Zealand Possum Biocontrol Research to Endogenous Australian Fauna. Conservation Biology 19(6): 2030-2032.
Goldingay, R. L. and Jackson, S. M. (eds). 2004 The Biology of Australian Possums and Gliders. Surrey Beatty and Sons Pty Limited, Chipping Norton, NSW, Australia.
Harper, M.J. 2005. Home range and den use of common brushtail possums ( Trichosurus vulpecula) in urban forest remnants. Wildlife Research, 32: 681-687.
Harper, M.J., McCarthy, M. A. and van der Ree, R. 2005. The use of nest boxes in urban natural vegetation remnants by vertebrate fauna. Wildlife Research, 32: 501-516.
Harper, M.J., McCarthy, M. A. and van der Ree, R. 2006. Resources at the landscape scale influence possum abundance. Austral Ecology (in press).
Harper, M.J. 2006. Resource Availability and Use by Urban Fauna. PhD. Thesis, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne. pp. 226.
Hill, B.M. 1997. The ecology and management of the common brushtail possum in metropolitan Adelaide: The Common Brushtail Possum in South Australia. Fauna Management Coordinating Committee, Dept. Primary Industries and Environment and Natural Resources, Adelaide. pp. 11-14.
How, R.A. 1981. Population parameters of two congeneric possums Trichosurus spp. in north-eastern New South Wales. Australian Journal of Zoology 29(2): 205-215.
How, R.A. and Hillcox, S.J. 2000. Brushtail possum Trichosurus vulpecula populations in south-western Australia: demography, diet and conservation status. Wildlife Research 27: 81-89.
How, R.A., and Kerle, A. 1995. Common Brushtail Possum Trichosurus vulpecula: pp. 273-75 in The Mammals of Australia (ed. by Strahan R.). Reed Books, Sydney.
Hrdina, F. and Gordon, G. 2004. The Koala and Possum Trade in Queensland, 1906-1936. Australian Zoologist 32: 543-584.
Hume, I. D. 1999 Marsupial nutrition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Inions, G.B., Tanton, M.T. and Davey, S.M. 1989. Effect of Fire on the Availability of Hollows in Trees Used by the Common Brushtail Possum Trichosurus vulpecula Kerr, and the Ringtail Possum Pseudocheirus peregrinus Boddaerts. Australian Wildlife Research 16: 449-458.
Isaac, J.L. 2005. Life history and demographics of an island possum. Australian Journal of Zoology, 53(3): 195-203.
Ji, W., Sarre, S.D., White, P.C.L. and Clout, M.N. 2004. Population recovery of common brushtail possums after local depopulation. Wildlife Research 31: 543-550.
Ji, W., White, P.C.L. and Clout, M.N. 2005. Contact rates between possums revealed by proximity data loggers. Journal of Applied Ecology, 42: 595-604.
Johnson, C.N., Vernes, K and Payne, A. 2005. Demography in relation to population density in two herbivorous marsupials: testing for source versus independent regulation of population size. Oecologia 143:70-76.
Jones, C.G., Hopper, R.F., Coleman, J.S. and Krischik, V.A. 1993. Control of systemically induced herbivore resistance by plant vascular architecture. Oecologia 93:452-456
Kerle, A. 1984 Variation in the ecology of Trichosurus: its adaptive significance in Possums and Gliders; ed. by A.P. Smith and I.D. Hume, Australian Mammal Society, Sydney and Surrey Beatty and Sons, Chipping Norton, NSW.
Kerle, A. 1985. Habitat preference and diet of the northern brushtail possum Trichosurus arnhemensis in the Alligator Rivers region, NT. Proceeding of the Ecological Society of Australia 13: 161-176.
Kerle, A., Foulkes, J.N., Kimber, R.G. and Papenfus, D. 1992. The Decline of the Brushtail Possum Trichosurus vulpecula (Kerr 1798) in Arid Australia. Rangelands Journal 14(2): 107-127.
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Landsberg, J.J. 1987. Feeding Preferences of Common Brushtail Possums Trichosurus vulpecula on Seedlings of a Woodland Eucalypt. Australian Wildlife Research, 14: 361-369.
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Marsh, K.J., Wallis, I.R. and Foley, W.J. 2003a. The effect of inactivating tannins on the intake of Eucalyptus foliage by a specialist Eucalyptus folivore ( Pseudocheirus peregrinus) and a generalist herbivore ( Trichosurus vulpecula). Australian Journal of Zoology 51(1): 31-42.
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Wellard, G.A. and Hume, I.D. 1981(b). Nitrogen Metabolism and Nitrogen Requirements of the Brushtail Possum, Trichosurus Vulpecula (Kerr). Australian Journal of Zoology Vol. 29(2): 147-156
Whelan, R., Roberts, D.G., England, P.R. and Ayre D.J. 2006. The potential for genetic contamination vs. augmentation by native plants in urban gardens. Biological Conservation. Vol. 128(4): 493-500.
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References

Aldred, J. 1979. Field experiments on population regulation to the brushtail possum Trichosurus vulpecula (Kerr). Hons Thesis. University of Sydney. (Reported in Matthews et al. 2004).
Barlow, N.D. 1994. Predicting the effect of a novel vertebrate biocontrol agent: a model for viral-vectored Immunocontraception of New Zealand possums. Journal Applied Ecology 31: 454-462.
Barnett, J.L., How, R.A. and Humphreys, W.F. 1977. Possum damage to pine plantations in north-eastern New South Wales. pp. 185-195. Australian Forest Resources 7.
Bird, P.L. 1997. A Review of the Ecology of the Common Brushtail Possum Trichosurus vulpecula in South-Eastern Australia. In: Proceedings of ‘Seminar and Workshop on the Management of the Common Brushtail Possum’. Fauna Management Coordinating Committee, Adelaide May 29, 1996.
Bomford, M. 1990. A role for fertility control in wildlife management? Bureau of Rural Resources, Dept. Prim. Ind. and Energy. Bulletin No. 7. Aust. Govt. Printing Service, Canberra.
Brandt, A. 1997. Not in my backyard. Audubon (Sept./Oct 1997) Vol. 99(5): 58-62.
Burchfield, E., Agar, N.S. and Hume, I.D. 2006. Effects of terpenes and tannins on some physiological and biochemical parameters in two species of phalangerid possums (Marsupialia: Phalangeridae). Australian Journal of Zoology 53: 395-402
Chabot, B.F. and Hicks, D.J. 1982. The ecology of leaf life spans. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. Vol. 13: 229-259.
Chapin, F.S. 1980. The mineral nutrition of wild plants. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. Vol. 11: 233-260.
Clinchy, M., Krebs, C.J. and Jarman, P.J. 2001. Dispersal sinks and handling effects: interpreting the role of immigration in common brushtail possum populations. Journal of Animal Ecology 70: 515-526.
Coman, B.J. 1994 A review of methods for the mitigation of browsing damage in Tasmania. Vernox Pest Management Report to the Browsing Animal Review Committee.
Coombe, G.N. 1996. Problems Caused by Common Brushtail Possums and Management Options. In: Proceedings of ‘Seminar and Workshop on the Management of the Common Brushtail Possum’. Fauna Management Coordinating Committee, Adelaide May 29, 1996.
Cowan, P.E. and Moeed A. 1987. Invertebrates in the diet of Brushtail Possums, Trichosurus vulpecula, in lowland podocarp/broadleaf forest, Orongorongo Valley, Wellington, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 14: 163-177.
Cowan, P.E. and Rhodes, D.S. 1992. Restricting the movements of Brushtail Possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) on farmland with electric fencing. Wildlife Research. 19: 47-58.
Cowan, P.E. and Rhodes, D.S. 1993. Electric fences and poison buffers as barriers to movements and dispersal of Brushtail Possums ( Trichosurus vulpecula) on farmland. Wildlife Research 20: 671-686.
Cowan, P.E. 2001. Advances in New Zealand Mammology 1990-2000: Brushtail possum. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, 31(1): 15-29.
Dearing, M.D., Foley, W.J. and McLean, S. 2005. The Influence of Plant Secondary Metabolites on The Nutritional Ecology of Herbivorous Terrestrial Vertebrates. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, Vol. 36: 169-189.
Department of Environment and Conservation. 2004. Living with wildlife - Brush-tailed possum. Viewed at: http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au.
Department of Environment and Heritage (DEH). 1996 Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes. Edited by S. Maxwell, A.A. Burbidge and K. Morris for the Australian Marsupial and Monotreme Specialist Group, IUCN Species Survival Commission.
Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment Tasmania. 2005. Living with Brushtail Possums webpage, viewed at: http://www.dpiwe.tas.gov.au
Department of Sustainability and Environment. 2003 Guidelines for Managing Damage Caused by Common Brushtail Possums in Municipal Parks. Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria, Australia.
Department of Sustainability and Environment. 2005 Living with Possums in Victoria - Questions and Answers. Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria, Australia - webpage viewed at: http://www.dpi.vic.gov.au/dse
Efford, M., Warburton, B. and Spencer, N. 2000. Home-range changes by brushtail possums in response to control. Wildlife Research 27: 117-127.
Eymann, J., Herbert, C.A. and Cooper, D. W. 2005. Management issues of urban brushtail possums ( Trichosurus vulpecula) - a loved or hated neighbour. Australian Mammalogy in press. update
Eymann, J., Herbert, C.A., Cooper, D.W. and Dubey J.P. 2006. Serologic survey for Toxoplasma gondii and Neospora caninum in the common brushtail possums ( Trichosurus vulpecula) from urban Sydney, Australia. Journal of Parasitology 92(2): 267-272.
Freeland, W.J. and Janzen, D.H. 1974. Strategies in herbivory by mammals: the role of plant secondary compounds. American Naturalist 108:269-289.
Freeland, W.J. and Winter, J.W. 1975. Evolutionary consequences of eating: Trichosurus vulpecula and the genus Eucalyptus. Journal of Chemical Ecology 1(4): 439-455.
Gibbons, P. and Lindenmayer, D. 2002 Tree Hollows and Wildlife Conservation in Australia. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Victoria.
Gilbert, J.M. 1961. The effects of browsing by native animals on the establishment of seedlings of Eucalyptus regnans in the Florentine Valley, Tasmania. Australian Forestry 25(2): 116-121.
Gilna, B., Lindenmayer, D.B. and Viggers, K.L. 2005. Dangers of New Zealand Possum Biocontrol Research to Endogenous Australian Fauna. Conservation Biology 19(6): 2030-2032.
Goldingay, R. L. and Jackson, S. M. (eds). 2004 The Biology of Australian Possums and Gliders. Surrey Beatty and Sons Pty Limited, Chipping Norton, NSW, Australia.
Harper, M.J. 2005. Home range and den use of common brushtail possums ( Trichosurus vulpecula) in urban forest remnants. Wildlife Research, 32: 681-687.
Harper, M.J., McCarthy, M. A. and van der Ree, R. 2005. The use of nest boxes in urban natural vegetation remnants by vertebrate fauna. Wildlife Research, 32: 501-516.
Harper, M.J., McCarthy, M. A. and van der Ree, R. 2006. Resources at the landscape scale influence possum abundance. Austral Ecology (in press).
Harper, M.J. 2006. Resource Availability and Use by Urban Fauna. PhD. Thesis, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne. pp. 226.
Hill, B.M. 1997. The ecology and management of the common brushtail possum in metropolitan Adelaide: The Common Brushtail Possum in South Australia. Fauna Management Coordinating Committee, Dept. Primary Industries and Environment and Natural Resources, Adelaide. pp. 11-14.
How, R.A. 1981. Population parameters of two congeneric possums Trichosurus spp. in north-eastern New South Wales. Australian Journal of Zoology 29(2): 205-215.
How, R.A. and Hillcox, S.J. 2000. Brushtail possum Trichosurus vulpecula populations in south-western Australia: demography, diet and conservation status. Wildlife Research 27: 81-89.
How, R.A., and Kerle, A. 1995. Common Brushtail Possum Trichosurus vulpecula: pp. 273-75 in The Mammals of Australia (ed. by Strahan R.). Reed Books, Sydney.
Hrdina, F. and Gordon, G. 2004. The Koala and Possum Trade in Queensland, 1906-1936. Australian Zoologist 32: 543-584.
Hume, I. D. 1999 Marsupial nutrition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Inions, G.B., Tanton, M.T. and Davey, S.M. 1989. Effect of Fire on the Availability of Hollows in Trees Used by the Common Brushtail Possum Trichosurus vulpecula Kerr, and the Ringtail Possum Pseudocheirus peregrinus Boddaerts. Australian Wildlife Research 16: 449-458.
Isaac, J.L. 2005. Life history and demographics of an island possum. Australian Journal of Zoology, 53(3): 195-203.
Ji, W., Sarre, S.D., White, P.C.L. and Clout, M.N. 2004. Population recovery of common brushtail possums after local depopulation. Wildlife Research 31: 543-550.
Ji, W., White, P.C.L. and Clout, M.N. 2005. Contact rates between possums revealed by proximity data loggers. Journal of Applied Ecology, 42: 595-604.
Johnson, C.N., Vernes, K and Payne, A. 2005. Demography in relation to population density in two herbivorous marsupials: testing for source versus independent regulation of population size. Oecologia 143:70-76.
Jones, C.G., Hopper, R.F., Coleman, J.S. and Krischik, V.A. 1993. Control of systemically induced herbivore resistance by plant vascular architecture. Oecologia 93:452-456
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