Ozark - the Australian Wildlife Carer's Information & Communications Network

Tue - Sep 12


By Sonya Stanvic

Correct identification can be vital to the survival of some possum species because of their diet, family structure and housing requirements. For example a yellow-bellied glider will die if surrounded with succulent fresh eucalypt tips where a greater glider would barely survive on glider mix and insects.

Some carers get confused with young brushtails which have not yet developed the thick bushy tail and often, because it curls into a ring, they think it therefore must be a ringtail! So, it gets treated and housed like an adult ringtail possum BUT it should be on milk, because it is a back baby and still suckling from mum. It not only needs to be fed a milk formula, but it is also treated and housed differently than an adult ringtail! This animal will die if the situation is no corrected.

Knowing individual species eye shine can also help you identify some species when spotlighting.

Family structure is also important - if you put two wild adult possums together - with the exception of feathertails and pygmy possums …….fur would fly!!

Click links in the heading or photos to view the PDF "Spot the Difference" files.

Brushtail possum
Brushtails compared to Ringtails

Brushtail Possums are much larger than ringtails and have pointed ears compared to rounded ears. Ringtails have a cheek patch and the one third of the tail is tipped white.  Ringtail eye shine is pale red.

Ringtail possum

Bobucks compared to Common Brushtails

Bobucks have a distinct musty smell and have a dumpy body compared to their cousin the common brushtail.  The ears are shorter and have a cream patch of fur at the base of the ears.  Bobucks can also come in a black form in some area.  The chest gland secretes clear fluid which does not stain the chest area like the brushtails dark rustic stained fur. Bobucks may not produce every year and the young have a longer association with their offspring than common brushtails.  Eye shine for both species is red.

Sugar Glider
Squirrel Gliders compared to Sugar Gliders

Squirrel gliders are larger and can weigh over 100 grams more than an adult sugar glider.  Sugars have a pug-like face, wider ears and the underbelly fur is a dirty off-white colour compared to the white underbelly fur of the squirrel glider.

The base of the squirrel's tail is wider and fluffier and tapers to a black tip.  Sugar's tail is slimmer with less taper and can also have a white tip.  Both gliders have the same pungent smell.  Eye shine of both species is pale.

Squirrel Glider

Yellow Bellied Glider

Greater Glider
Greater Glider compared to Yellow-Bellied Gliders

Greater gliders are larger and have furred ears, compared with the large naked pointed ears of the yellow-bellied glider. Both have long fluffy pendulous tails, and greaters have a white, not yellow underbelly.  Greater gliders also have a distinct spicy smell and their urine can be very red.  Yellow-bellied gliders are very verbal compared to the quiet demure greater glider. The yellow-bellied glider has strong teeth to gouge the thick fibrous bark to tap into the flowing nectar beneath which is its main food source.  Greaters on the other hand are fastidious pains in the neck as they are very fussy and like only some species of eucalypts excepting only new green succulent tips and flowers.  They belong in the Ringtail family.

Feathertail Glider
Feathertail Glider & Pygmy Possum
compared to other small mammals

Feathertails are distinguished from other smaller mammals by their feather-like tail and gliding membrane. The pygmy possum is also distinguished from mice, rats and Antechinus by the fusion of the second and third toes on the hind feet to form a single digit with two claws (grooming claws - all possums have them. Spiders would have a more noticeable eye-shine!

Eastern Pygmy Possum


House Mouse

Black Rat


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