Archive for February, 2017

Pygmy Possum

February 21, 2017
Josiah rescued a baby “little pygmy possum” from the bath yesterday.  (Our bathroom is off the open verandah so it is not surprising to find tiny lizards and stray birds in there – we have even had a brush tail possum and a spotted tail quoll before!).  The baby was cold and tired and rather desperate for food.  It had been seen for a couple of days around the place and we had assumed it was a baby mouse, but when we looked at it up close it had a different face and it curled its tail into a coil.
Tasmanian pygmy possum (Cercartetus lepidus)
For the first night we fed it some glucose water and fruit and set it up in an aquarium with a heat lamp and some fresh banksia flowers that I hunted up.
Tasmanian pygmy possum (Cercartetus lepidus)
After that we did some research and provided a diet which includes special honeyeater and insectivore mixture, fresh plants to climb and flowers to investigate along with bugs found in the wood stacks, bits of rotting wood to dig into and some meal worms too.
Tasmanian pygmy possum (Cercartetus lepidus)
It is so cute and so tiny!  It weighs a minuscule 3.5gm and likes nothing better than to wrap itself around Josiah’s finger and fall asleep – I guess it would have been used to holding on to it’s mums back like that.
Tasmanian pygmy possum (Cercartetus lepidus)
Addendum 17/3/17
After another couple of days we found yet another little one stranded in the bath.  A third one, noticeably smaller than these two, was found running in circles on the bathroom floor – but sadly that one died soon after we found it.
Our best guess is that they were all in a nest waiting for Mum to bring them food, too big at this stage to be in the pouch or holding on to Mum’s back wherever she went.  Then perhaps Mum fell prey to a kookaburra, butcher bird or snake and after a while they had to to venture out to look for food on their own.  Being too young they were not doing well, and some exceptionally cold nights made them slow and hungry.
Tasmanian pygmy possum (Cercartetus lepidus)
They pretty quickly learned to lap their food and are now self feeding and their instincts are getting pretty good so we are trying not to handle them much anymore.
Tasmanian pygmy possum (Cercartetus lepidus)
We set up a large 4ft long reptile aquarium as a natural environment and they have been thriving so far and are very active at dusk and early evening.  I have received advice from some carers through the department of wildlife and hope to release them into the back yard soon.  At the time of writing they have increased their weight to 9gm.
Tasmanian pygmy possum (Cercartetus lepidus)
I am trying to get them solely on natural food now and have made a nesting box which they sleep in, curled up in a beanie.  I have to replace the beanie with natural bedding too!  That box will be mounted on a tree when they are released so that they can explore their new area whilst still having a familiar and safe place to return to.  I hope that will give them a better chance of survival in the dangerous outside world.
Tasmanian pygmy possum (Cercartetus lepidus)
Addendum 28/3/17
Well, the pygmy possums reached the required weight of 12gm on 23rd March.  I took the small nesting box they had been sleeping in and mounted it onto a tree trunk behind the house.  I thought it would be good if they could spend a few days at least with a familiar home base to come and go from, plus I could leave some meal worms or other food around nearby for the first week or so.  I chose a spot that had some bushes around it so that there would be plenty of sticks to climb and different bush types for them to explore.  I faced the box away from the prevailing winds and made sure the door was close to the trunk and some small twigs to make it easy for them to get in and out unnoticed.
SONY DSC
I released them into the house just before dusk and left them to it – and I haven’t seen them since.  I checked the box but they have not returned to it at all, and they have not eaten any of the food I left out.  With all the predators around – kookaburras, tawny frogmouths, butcher birds, snakes etc – I guess it is very likely that they quickly became a juicy meal for something.  However, on the other hand, I had never seen any pygmy possums around before these little guys so it is just possible that they are still out there meeting up with some others of their species and finding nesting places of their own.  It was hard to let them go, knowing they were safe and sound with us, but it is illegal to keep them – and we did want them to find mates and breed up in the wild.  We believe that they were both females so maybe one day one will return to bring up some joeys of her own in the box.  I’ll leave it there just in case.
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