While brushtail possums are common in the southern parts of Western Australia, it is the first time one has been documented north of Geraldton. (Supplied: DBCA)
The telltale sound of a brushtail possum on the roof may be annoying for some, but the discovery of the species in WA’s north is a sign that the eradication of foreign predators has been successful.
Kalbarri National Park is home to many native species, including the black-flanked rock wallaby. (ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Laura Meachim)
A brushtail possum was pictured in Kalbarri National Park, 485km north of Perth, in the first documented sighting of the species in northern WA.
It was caught on a remote sensing camera, used to monitor black-flanked rock wallabies that were reintroduced to the park last year.
Brushtail possums are common in WA’s south-west but there are very few records of the species existing north of Geraldton.
Kalbarri National Park senior ranger Mike Paxman said it was an unexpected discovery.
“We were going through the camera data and one of our staff members spotted the brushtail possum,” he said.
“It was quite exciting for us, we did not actually know that brushtails occurred in the park.
“Obviously they have survived here for a long time, always been here but I guess their presence went totally unknown.”
Lack of predators means natives are thriving
The sighting comes after extensive work to reintroduce the black-flanked rock wallaby to the park.
To do so the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions needed to eradicate predators like feral cats, foxes and wild goats using an extensive baiting and culling program.
It means native species are able to thrive without the threat of being killed or having their natural food source depleted.
Mr Paxman said while the park was monitored more extensively now, it was a sign that more than 20 years of fox and cat baiting had been successful.
“Obviously now we are monitoring things better, we’ve got better information and we are observing things a lot more than we did on an ongoing basis,” he said.
“But certainly the baiting program has helped the survivorship of the possum and the black–flanked rock wallaby, which still survives in the park.”
“I think in the absence of that baiting, the possum would have died out because of predation by foxes predominantly.”
The brushtail possum was captured on a remote sensing camera, used to monitor black-flanked rock wallabies. (Supplied: DBCA)
Rare sighting promising sign
While there was anecdotal evidence from the Nanda people, who have seen brushtail possums in the park, it was the first official recording of the species.
Mr Paxman said the sighting was a promising sign that native species were on the rise in the park.
“It is all part of the tapestry, the sort of fabric of the park,” he said.
“These animals all perform very important functions within the environment here as well.
“And for the tourists, they are cute and cuddly — it is always good to have charismatic mega fauna for tourists to look at.”