New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2003) 27(1): 61- 65

Brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) diet in a north Westland mixed-beech (Nothofagus) forest

Short Communication
C. Hamish Cochrane 1,*
David A. Norton 1
Craig J. Miller 2,3
Robert B. Allen 4
  1. Conservation Research Group, School of Forestry, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand
  2. Department of Conservation, Private Bag 701, Hokitika, New Zealand
  3. Present address: Department of Physical Geography, Macquarie University, c/-Department of Land and Water Conservation, P.O. Box 297, Muswellbrook, N.S.W. 2333, Australia
  4. Landcare Research, P.O. Box 69, Lincoln, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

We quantified brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) diet in a mixed Nothofagus fusca-N. menziesii forest in north Westland. Diet comprised 49 food items of which four (Aristotelia serrata, Muehlenbeckia australis and Weinmannia racemosa foliage, and W. racemosa flowers) contributed 68%. The canopy dominant Nothofagus species were a minor diet component (<1%), while wood, fungi and bark were a small but consistent part of diet (10.1%). Our results are similar to previous possum diet studies in Nothofagus forests and suggest that possums are very selective in their feeding, both spatially and temporally, focusing on key preferred species in particular parts of the forest and taking advantage of different food types that become available at different times of the year.