T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network

Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula)

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Diprotodontia
Family: Phalangeridae
Genus: Trichosurus
Species: Trichosurus vulpecula
Binomial name: Trichosurus vulpecula
Common name: Possum, Common Brushtail Possum, Paihamu

  New Zealand animal pest. Threat to native plants and other species

Trichosurus vulpecula (possum) is a nocturnal, semi-arboreal marsupial of the family Phalangeridae, it is native to Australia, and the largest of the possums. The first possums were brought to New Zealand in 1837 from Australia to start a fur industry at Riverton in Southland. This initial attempt failed, and it was not until 1858 that they were successfully introduced at the same place and now In New Zealand, they have become a major agricultural and conservation pest. There are about 30 million possums in New Zealand who munch through around 21,000 tonnes of leaves, berries and fruit every night. In New Zealand possums have no natural enemies. Possum numbers can build up very quickly because every mother possum has a baby each year.
Possums like to eat the juicy new growth on trees and hence it is very hard for the tree to grow growth is being In New Zealand forests possums will go back to the same tree night after night, eating the tree till it dies. They love eating our native trees such as our pohutukawa, rata, totara, kowhai and kohekohe. Because possums are eating native trees they are eating the food of New Zealand native birds. 
Possums not only eat the trees they will eat the eggs and chicks of our native birds. See a video through a night-vision camera that has captured a possum chasing a kokako off her nest, and eating the eggs. See video:  .www.teara.govt.nz/en/introduced-animal-pests/2/3

They have been known to push kiwi out of their burrows so they can have a dry place to sleep. These pests can also be a problem for farmers because they can spread a disease called 'bovine tuberculosis' to cows, cattle and deer. They are quite noisy creatures and can make 22 vocal sounds.from screeches, grunts, hisses, chatters, squeaks and clicks

Possums are also vectors of bovine tuberculosis, which is a major threat to the dairy, beef, and deer farming industries.The disease is endemic in possums across about 38% of New Zealand (known as ‘vector risk areas’). In these areas, nearly 70% of new herd infections can be traced back to possums or ferrets. The Biosecurity Act 1993, which established a national pest management strategy, is the legislation behind the control of the disease in New Zealand. The Animal Health Board operates a nationwide programme of cattle testing and possum control with the goal of eradicating M. bovis from wild vector species across 2.5 million hectares – or one quarter – of New Zealand’s at-risk areas by 2026 and, eventually, eradicating the disease entirely.

A possum caught in the act of eating a stolen strawberry.

A small cottage industry in fur pelts and wool mixed with possum fur fibre has developed and trappers and hunters provide the raw material. The fur is often sold as 'eco-fur' by a number of small manufacturing and retailing businesses. The numbers of animals taken for fur is rising and has almost equalled the numbers killed in poisoning. 

The photo below is one eradicator daily catch. Note male has no pouch, only testicles containing testis.

Possums fur varies in colour. A professional possum fur grader can sort possum colours into nine distinct colours being grey, pale, black, light slate, dark slate, red-brown, dark brown, red neck and rusty.

Learn more about this pest.

Distribution map of the possum (Pink area)

Thanks to Wikipedia for text and information http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/