Department of the Environment

About us | Contact us | Publications

Header imagesHeader imagesHeader images

Publications archive - Biodiversity

Disclaimer

Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Management program for the Brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula (Kerr)) in Tasmania for the period 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2004

Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service, September 1999


Contents

INTRODUCTION

1. This Management Program applies to the Tasmanian population of the brushtail possum, Trichosurus vulpecula (Kerr), and is submitted under Section 10 of the Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act (1982) and its associated regulations. It has been endorsed by the Minister for Primary Industries, Water and Environment, who is responsible for wildlife conservation in Tasmania.

2. The brushtail possum is an arboreal marsupial that occurs widely over much of Australia. The species is widespread in Tasmania where it occupies a variety of habitats and is locally abundant.

3. In many parts of Tasmania, land-use practices have benefited the brushtail possum to the extent that it is now regarded as a pest in forestry areas where it browses seedlings and in agricultural areas where it competes for food with domestic stock and damages crops. It has also been implicated in rural tree decline in Tasmania where heavy browsing by possums of mature trees is killing extensive tracts of native forest and woodland in lower rainfall areas.

4. The Tasmanian population of the brushtail possum contains larger animals with a denser and more valuable fur than those from the Australian mainland. As a result the species has been harvested for its skin since the earliest times of European settlement and has at times supported a substantial export-based industry. In more recent times, a small but expanding industry has developed based on the export of possum carcasses to interstate and overseas markets.

5. The brushtail possum is a protected species under the Wildlife Regulations, 1971 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act, 1970. These regulations specify that permits may be issued allowing brushtail possums to be taken for such purposes as the protection of crops and pasture. The products of possums taken for this purpose may be sold.

6. The management program described in this document is proposed to be carried out in Tasmania during the period 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2004. It replaces all previous management programs for brushtail possums in Tasmania.

 

AIMS AND OBJECTIVES

7. Aim:

8. Objectives:

 

MANAGEMENT PROCEDURES

9. The conservation and management of the brushtail possum is provided for under the Wildlife Regulations 1971 made under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1970. These regulations list the brushtail possum as a protected species for which permits may be issued allowing it to be taken for the purpose of crop protection. The products of possums taken for this purpose may be utilised commercially.

Control of the Crop Protection Take

10. Landholders who wish to control brushtail possums on their land are required to apply for a Crop Protection Permit. Crop Protection Permits are normally issued for a period of up to 3 months, and are specific for the property and method of control. The latter may consist of live-trapping, shooting, or in situations where other control methods are not practicable, poisoning with 1080 baits.

11. Crop Protection Permits must specify any agents nominated by the landowner to undertake the control. Products obtained from animals taken under a Crop Protection Permit may be sold only by a person who holds a Commercial Permit authorising the taking of brushtail possums for commercial purposes.

12. Permits to shoot brushtail possums are issued subject to a regional assessment of possum numbers undertaken annually by spotlight survey. Permits to use 1080 poison for possum control are issued subject to individual property assessment by an authorised officer of the Service.

13. Crop Protection Permits allowing spotlight shooting are required to be returned within 30 days of expiry with details of the number of animals shot.

14. Statistics are maintained on the number of Crop Protection Permits issued for brushtail possum control, and the number of animals taken under these permits by shooting.

Control of the Commercial Harvest

15. Commercial harvesting of brushtail possums is allowed under permit throughout the year on land used for primary production for which the written approval of the landholder has been obtained. Harvesting of brushtail possums is not allowed on unoccupied Crown Land.

16. All persons taking brushtail possums for commercial purposes are required to have a Commercial Permit to take this species issued by the Parks and Wildlife Service.

17. A Commercial Permit to take brushtail possums is valid for a 12 month period from 1 January to 31 December and specifies particular properties or areas in which the permit holder can operate.

18. Under this permit, brushtail possums may be taken by shooting at night using a rifle with the aid of a spotlight. The use of snares, or steel-jawed traps is specifically prohibited.

19. Permission may be given to particular permit holders to take possums by live-trapping using cage traps. Live-trapping must be conducted in accordance with the 'Code of Practice for Capture, Handling, Transport and Slaughter of Brush Possums (Trichosurus vulpecula)' endorsed by the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee under the authority of the Animal Welfare Act (1993).

20. All holders of Commercial Permits to take brushtail possums are required to make monthly returns of the number of animals shot, and skins and/or meat sold. These returns are to be forwarded to the Service within 14 days of the end of each month.

21. Wildlife Enforcement Officers undertake regular and frequent patrols throughout the State policing the activities of commercial permit holders. Particular effort is made in ensuring that hunters have permits and are taking brushtail possums when and where they are permitted to do so.

22. The following options are available to the Service for the purpose of limiting the harvest of brushtail possums either across Tasmania or at a regional level:

Control of the Trade in Brushtail Possum Products

23. All dealers in brushtail possum skins and processors of brushtail possum meat must be authorised to do so by the appropriate licence or permit.

24. Dealers in possum skins are required to supply the Service with monthly returns detailing all transactions in skins. Details include the quantity of skins traded, and the name and permit number of the hunter from whom the skins were purchased.

25. Processors of brushtail possum meat are required to supply the Service with monthly returns detailing all transactions in possum meat. Details include the number of possums purchased, the name and permit number of the hunter from whom the possums were purchased and the quantity of meat processed.

26. Holders of Commercial Permits to take brushtail possums are only permitted to sell brush possums or their products to authorised dealers/processors or their agents. Details of each sale must be recorded on the hunter's permit.

27. All skins retained by dealers for trading must be presented for royalty payment and stamped within 28 days of purchase or prior to export which ever is sooner.

28. Meat processors must pay a royalty on all possum carcasses within 14 days of the end of the month in which they were processed.

29. A permit is required from the Service to allow products of brushtail possums to be exported out of the State.

30. Royalties must be paid on skins and carcasses prior to their export from the State.

31. Rangers periodically inspect all premises licensed to deal in brushtail possum skins and meat and check records to ensure that all possum products were taken in accordance with the Regulations.

 

MONITORING AND ASSESSMENT

Monitoring of the Harvest

32. The following sources of information are used to monitor the harvesting of brushtail possums in Tasmania:

33. All holders of Commercial Permits to take brushtail possums are required to make monthly returns of the number of animals shot, and skins and/or meat sold. These returns are to be forwarded to the Service within 14 days of the end of each month. Every 3 months, this information is used to give a quarterly estimate of the total number of brushtail possums taken, and skins and/or meat sold by Commercial Permit.

34. Crop Protection Permits for spotlight shooting must be returned within 30 days of expiry with details of the number of animals taken. Every 3 months, this information is used to give a quarterly estimate of the total number of brushtail possums taken by Crop Protection Permit holders.

35. Every 3 months, quarterly estimates of the take by Commercial Permit holders and the take by Crop Protection Permit holders are combined to provide an estimate of the total take of brushtail possums during the quarter. This information is used to monitor the rate at which the approved annual quota is being filled.

36. Skin dealers and meat processors are required to make monthly returns of their transactions. This information provides an additional check on the returns made by holders of Commercial Permits to take brushtail possums.

37. Records are maintained of the number of skins and carcasses stamped for royalty payment and provide a further check on the returns made by Commercial Permit holders, skin dealers and meat processors.

38. Records are maintained of the number of skins and carcasses exported from the State.

Monitoring Population Trends

39. Standardised spotlight surveys are conducted annually along a series of 10km transects located throughout those regions of Tasmania where brushtail possums are harvested.

40. The results of these surveys are used to monitor population trends in brushtail possums within those regions of Tasmania where brushtail possums are harvested.

 

DETERMINATION OF THE COMMERCIAL QUOTA

41. A quota is determined annually for the maximum number of individual brushtail possums that may be taken during the coming 12 month period from 1 July to 30 June of the following year.

42. The size of the quota is based on the following information obtained through the management program:-

43. This information is provided annually to the authority designated under the Wildlife Protection(Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1982.

44. The quota is determined by consultation between the appropriate Tasmanian and Commonwealth authorities prior to being forwarded for consideration by the Commonwealth Minister responsible for wildlife.

 

COMPLIANCE

45. Management of brushtail possums is provided for under the Wildlife Regulations (1971) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act (1970). The regulations prescribe the species as protected wildlife and regulate the taking of the species and the subsequent disposal of products.

46. The Parks and Wildlife Service has a staff of 6 Wildlife Enforcement Officers whose primary responsibility is the enforcement of the Wildlife Regulations. These officers are assisted in their work by rangers stationed in various field offices throughout Tasmania whose responsibilities include the protection of brushtail possums on reserved land and help with enforcement on other lands. A strong liaison is maintained with officers from other statutory authorities including the police and primary industry agencies and AQIS.

47. Wildlife Enforcement Officers enforce the Wildlife Regulations in the following ways:

 

ANIMAL WELFARE

48.Under the National Parks and Wildlife Act (1970) the primary concern of the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service is the conservation of wildlife species. Nevertheless, the Service encourages the use of the highest standards by hunters so as to ensure that brushtail possums are killed humanely.

49. Sections of the Wildlife Regulations (1971) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act (1970) specifically prohibit certain methods of taking brush possums that are considered to be cruel. The commercial harvesting of brush possums is restricted to shooters using a rifle and spotlight or trappers using cage traps. The use of snares, or steel-jawed traps is specifically prohibited.

50. In addition, acts of cruelty can be prosecuted under the Animal Welfare Act (1993) which is primarily policed by inspectors of the Food Quality and Safety Branch of the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, the R.S.P.C.A. and the Tasmanian Police Force. A 'Code of Practice for the Capture, Handling, Transport and Slaughter of Brushtail Possums (Trichosurus vulpecula)' has been endorsed by the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee under the authority of the Animal Welfare Act. It is a condition of permits to process brushtail possums that all live-trapping, handling and slaughter of brushtail possums must be conducted in accordance with the Code of Practice.

 

REPORTS

51. A report summarising brushtail possum management activities will be provided each year to the authority designated under the Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1982.

52. This report will provide the following information in support of the quota application for the coming year:

53. In addition, this report will provide quarterly figures on the following for the previous 12 months: