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Temporal and spatial use of habitat by introduced brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) in an urban environment in New Zealand

2010Temporal and spatial use of habitat by introduced brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) in an urban environment in New ZealandSEIFERT Charlotte (Germany)
Organisation:University of East Anglia, Norwich (UK) - University of Otago, Dunedin (New Zealand)Supervisor :Mark Hassall (UEA) & Yolanda van Heezik (UO)
Summary: As invasive opportunistic nest predators, brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) potentially threaten native bird populations within urban areas in New Zealand. Despite the importance of urban wildlife for species conservation, no research has yet addressed the ecology of urban populations of brushtail possums outside their native range. In this study GPS-telemetry was used to assess the relative abundance of possums in different urban habitat types, their habitat selection within the home range, and to quantify activity periods, home range sizes and movements of possums within urban environments. Possums were found to be more abundant in urban bush fragments than in residential areas and to select for areas with high tree densities within their home ranges. Home ranges (?: 1.38 – 6.30 ha, ?: 3.87 – 16.07 ha) and nightly distances moved (?: 501 – 742 m, ?: 600 – 1286 m) were larger for males than for females. The onset of the nightly activity (x¯ = 24 min before sunset) was found to be strongly related to the time of sunset, but to occur earlier in urban areas than in non-urban habitat. As possums prefer the same habitats as many native urban birds, management strategies should be developed to reduce potential damage of possums to native birds in urban environments. Part of this strategy should be to focus on the control of possums in urban bush fragments. Synthesis and applications - This study assessed for the first time activity patterns of urban possums in New Zealand and highlights a potential conflict between native urban birds and possums in urban bush fragments. The control of urban possums can help to protect urban wildlife and sensitize the public for wider conservation concerns.