Thursday, March 07, 2019

'Falling out of trees': dozens of dead possums blamed on extreme heat stress

Lisa Cox
Thu 7 Mar 2019 02.07 EST
Last modified on Thu 7 Mar 2019 02.09 EST

More than 100 dead and injured ringtail possums have been found by wildlife rescuers along a single stretch of beach in Victoria in what ecologists say is becoming an annual occurrence due to extreme heat.

Rescuers and wildlife carers discovered 127 ringtail possums along the shoreline and in the water at Somers Beach on the Mornington Peninsula on Saturday during a four-day period that saw consistent temperatures in the high 30s, warm nights and bushfires in parts of the state. [30C = 86F, 39C = 102F]

Melanie Attard, a wildlife rescuer and foster carer with Aware Wildlife in Frankston, said rescuers suspected the animals had become so dehydrated and desperate they had left an area of scrub and come down to the beach and attempted to drink salt water.

“We assume they’ve come out due to the heat stress heading for the water in desperation,” she said.
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“It’s not nice seeing a possum throwing itself into the beach and drinking seawater. It’s really desperate.”


He said the situation was similar to heat stress deaths that have affected other species this summer, including the spectacled flying fox in Queensland.

Scientists have also been monitoring large drops in moth species due to climate change and recent drought.


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