Fire threat to rare possums discovered in Manypeaks

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The western ringtail possum was found in three Manypeaks reserves.
Camera IconThe western ringtail possum was found in three Manypeaks reserves. Credit: Bronte Van Helden

The future is looking brighter for the critically endangered western ringtail possum after populations were discovered in three reserves near Manypeaks.

However, researchers are eager to assess the impact of a bushfire which tore through one of the reserves last Friday.

The possum, which is dark brown with a white tip on its tail, has suffered a population decline of up to 90 per cent since European settlement.

South Coast Natural Resource Management ecologist Hannah Bannister discovered the species in the North Sister, South Sister and Lake Pleasant View nature reserves.

It was the first time the possums had been found at North Sister and South Sister.

Ms Bannister spent three nights conducting 4km of walking spotlight surveys along five separate routes looking for western ringtail possums.

“As a critically endangered species, any new information on the species’ range helps inform recovery actions,” she said. “Now that we know that western ringtail possums are present in at least low numbers at all three reserves, there is the potential for these numbers to increase as predator control is implemented.”

The research happened as part of South Coast NRM’s four-year project to implement feral predator control in the area in partnership with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

The organisations are trying to protect two threatened species in particular — the western ringtail possum and the endangered Australasian bittern.

Last Friday, a bushfire burnt through Lake Pleasant View Nature Reserve.

Ms Bannister said there was a good chance it had affected the local possum population.

“Introduced predators are known to target recently burnt areas, so implementing predator control soon will be important for the native species in the area,” she said.

“I haven’t been back out there since I was there last week, but I did manage to download data from a few cameras, which have now most likely been burnt and I hope to get out there in the next week or two.”

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