Ringtail Tally to start in South West next month as groups call for volunteers to tally possums

Craig DuncanSouth Western Times
A headcount of western ringtail possums is scheduled to start next month.
Camera IconA headcount of western ringtail possums is scheduled to start next month. Credit: Craig Duncan/Bunbury Herald

One of the South West’s most unique and adorable creatures is set to be the subject of a yearly tally that will gather vital information about the critically endangered marsupials.

The Ringtail Tally is a citizen science project dedicated to collecting data on the western ringtail possum that has been running for eight years.

Groups around the South West are now calling out for the next batch of possum protectors.

The survey will run from April 7 to May 4, with volunteers from across the region collecting data on ringtails that is recorded on WA’s Threatened Species Database.

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The data helps understand the possum’s population trends and conservation projects for the possums.

The survey was started by GeoCatch in 2016 and stretched from Yallingup to Gelorup.

Today the tally is a collaborative effort, with counts stretching from the Peel-Yalgorup national park to Albany.

Groups in this year’s tally include GeoCatch, the Leschenault Catchment Council, Nature Conservation Margret River, Wirambi Landcare and Oyster Harbour Catchment Group, all with the support of the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

Western ringtail possum numbers have been dropping due to deforestation, climate change and predation from foxes, dogs and cats.

Data from the 2023 tally showed there were 450 reported possum deaths from 2016 to 2023, with 64 per cent being the result of roadkill and 10 per cent killed by cats and dogs.

GeoCatch researcher Nicole Lincoln said managing pets was one of the simple ways people could help these critically endangered animals.

“If you have a cat, make sure it is contained at all times and if you have a dog, make sure they are inside at night and can’t access ringtail habitat,” she said.

“You can also install possum bridges in your yard to allow possums to move from tree to tree. There are some low-cost fence extensions available if your dog is jumping up on the fence to access a possum highway.“

This year students from Busselton Senior High School have put their hands up to take part in the tally, with active volunteering teacher Louise Mutch saying the tally will have positive outcomes for the students and environment.

“This is a beneficial program for our students to help look after our local wildlife and give back to our community,” she said.

“Last year, these students helped GeoCatch with planting and mulching trees on the foreshore that will eventually become possum habitat, so it is a great opportunity for our students to continue with volunteer work.”

Taking part in the survey is free and no experience is necessary.

Registration for the tally for Busselton residents can be found here, or on the GeoCatch website geocatch.asn.au.

Registration for the tally for Bunbury residents can be found here, or on the Leschenault Catchment Council’s website leschenaultcc.org.au.

Registration for the tally of Harvey can be done through the Leschenault Catchment Council here, or through their website.

Waroona residents can register for the tally though Wirambi Landcare by emailing wrtp.wirambi@gmail.com.

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