Mountain pygmy possum
- Habitat fragmentation and destruction
- Climate change
- Predatory animals
The only Australian mammal that lives exclusively in an alpine habitat is the Mountain Pygmy Possum. The largest among the pygmy possum species only inhabits within rock screes and boulder field heathlands in three highly isolated geographical areas: Mt. Buller-Stirling and Mt. Bogong – Mt. Higginbotham in Victoria as well as the Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales.
Its protein-rich diet consists of the Bogong Moth, a seasonal migratory insect, as well as small arthropods, berries, and seeds. This nocturnal omnivorous creature weighs 45 grams, with males distinctly larger than females. Its thick-coated grey body protects itself during its hibernation period under the snow which can last up to seven months.
The Mountain Pygmy Possum population is seriously in danger due to habitat fragmentation and destruction. Construction of ski resorts, roads, and various man-made infrastructure within the surrounding areas means that there is very limited natural range where this marsupial species can live in peace. There is high mortality rate specifically caused by roads during winter season because there is no alternative migratory route for the Mountain Pygmy Possum.
Because it is also highly dependent on specific food items found in the alpine regions, shorter winters can shorten the time for foraging and even their food intake. Declining snow cover also means less protection during sub-zero temperatures.
The Mountain Pygmy Possum, being rich in protein and fat, is also vulnerable to being caught and eaten by feral cats and red foxes within the area.