Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

High possum mortality on urban roads: implications for the population viability of the common brushtail and the common ringtail possum

Tracey C. Russell A C , Catherine A. Herbert B and James L. Kohen A
+ Author Affliations
- Author Affliations

A Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, NSW 2109, Australia.

B Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: trussell@bio.mq.edu.au

Australian Journal of Zoology 57(6) 391-397 https://doi.org/10.1071/ZO09079
Submitted: 28 July 2009  Accepted: 3 December 2009   Published: 22 January 2010

Abstract

Animal–vehicle collisions impact wildlife populations and in the northern suburbs of Sydney, both the common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) and the common ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus) are killed in large numbers. Over a two-year period almost 600 road-killed possums were observed from 217 road surveys covering over 7800 km, equating to 5.45 possums per week over the 36-km study area. Surveys were conducted along roads where the environment ranged from low-rise suburban to continuous sclerophyll forest. Significantly more ringtail possums were observed as road-kill, outnumbering brushtail possums by almost three to one. No sex bias was found amongst road-killed ringtail possums; however, seasonal trends and weight fluctuations were significant, with both males and females being at their lowest weights during the autumn breeding season. For brushtail possums a bias towards young males was observed. Sex and weight of road-killed brushtail possums were comparable to live-trap data from a previous study in the same location. In areas of such high possum mortality, wildlife managers may need to take action to mitigate possum road-kill.


Acknowledgements

This study was funded by the Macquarie University Postgraduate Research Fund to TCR. We thank Bonnie Russell and Belinda Bowman for help with field work. Thanks also go to Erica Jankus, Marianne Cochrane and WIRES volunteers Belinda Alexandra and Jennifer Pang for reporting road-kill on days when surveys were not undertaken. Special thanks go to Dr Sarah Wilks and to two anonymous referees for valuable comments on this manuscript and to Dr Dan Ramp for initial advice on this project.


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