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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 61(1)

Brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) in metropolitan Sydney: population biology and response to Suprelorin contraceptive implants

J. Eymann A , D. W. Cooper B and C. A. Herbert C D

A Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW 2109, Australia.
B Deceased. Formerly of School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Kensington, NSW 2052, Australia.
C Faculty of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW 2006, Australia.
D Corresponding author. Email: catherine.herbert@sydney.edu.au

Australian Journal of Zoology 61(1) 78-86 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/ZO13019
Submitted: 18 February 2013  Accepted: 21 May 2013   Published: 13 June 2013

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The cohabitation of the common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) with people in urban areas often causes conflict. Basic biological parameters are needed to evaluate potential new management options such as fertility control. This study investigated the biology of an urban brushtail possum population and the effects of Suprelorin contraceptive implants on individual females within that population. Trapping success remained constant over time, with 2.8 ± 0.2 individuals trapped per residential property. Recapture rates for males declined rapidly over time, with only 30% of males recaptured on the same property 12 months after initial capture (n = 30) and no males recaptured after 18 months (compared with female recapture rates of 58% after 18 months, n = 33). These data, combined with the preponderance of males observed within the lower age classes, suggests that male possum turnover is high within urban areas. This may be partially compensated for by the male-bias (1.8 : 1) observed in pouch young. Breeding was seasonal with the main peak of births in autumn, and a secondary smaller peak in spring. Suprelorin contraceptive treatment effectively inhibited reproduction in adult females for a minimum duration of 519 ± 7 (n = 5) and ≥700 ± 20 (n = 5) days after administration of one or two 4.7-mg implants, respectively, with no negative side-effects obvious. The concurrent collection of data on contraceptive efficacy and population-specific life-history parameters provides a unique opportunity to highlight the importance of understanding local population dynamics when evaluating the likely efficacy and implementation of fertility control programs to manage problem wildlife.


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