The Adventures of Ally, the albino Possum

Author
by Max
Publish date
21 November 2012
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Comments (12)

One of the many questions we are asked in the Discovery Centre is about the many and varied birds and mammals people sight in their own surburban backyards.  One such enquiry came to us from Steve from East Brighton who had spotted an albino possum in his garden.

Ally, the albino possum Ally, the albino possum
Image: Steve Mitchelmore
Source: Steve Mitchelmore
 

In February 2012 Steve discovered an albino baby brush-tail possum in his backyard. He wanted to know how rare they were as he had been observing possums for years, and this is the first albino one he had seen. One of our experts responded with the following;

Albino mammals are not totally unknown; we have received specimens at about a three year interval on average. Once the gene is introduced into a local population then their occurrence becomes a bit more periodic although only about once in a generation. Because they are not camouflaged as well as their parents or siblings they are readily detected by predators and could be easily taken as prey. A true albino will also have poor eyesight due to the lack of pigmentation in the eye again making them susceptible to predation. It will be interesting to follow this young animal and see how it survives such traumas.

Ally, the albino possum Ally, the albino possum
Image: Steve Mitchelmore
Source: Steve Mitchelmore
 

To which Steve responded;

About three weeks ago I noticed the small tail and one paw protruding from the mother's pouch seemed unnaturally pale in colour, then last night the juvenile, creamy white with deep red eyes, was on its mother's back...

P.S. Regarding predators, do you know if Powerful Owls inhabit the East Brighton area?

To which our expert replied;

I am unsure about the Powerful Owl’s situation in East Brighton but I can say that they have been seen/heard in many Melbourne suburbs. So if the area concerned is heavily vegetated – that is with large trees then there is every possibility that one of these large owls will make its presence felt.

Early in July, Steve sent the following update;

... you mentioned that it would be interesting to follow her development and any 'traumas' she may endure.  She still comes by almost every night, having been AWOL on only six or seven occasions since late January.  She has the un-original name of 'Ally' (as in Ally the Albino)...  As for traumas, so far so good, apart from when she fell into the pool three nights ago.  Luckily the water level was so high following all the recent rain that she had no trouble getting herself out. 

Ally, the albino possum Ally, the albino possum
Image: Steve Mitchelmore
Source: Steve Mitchelmore
 

Then in late July, he sent in his last update;

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but . . . Sadly, Ally has not been sighted since Monday night...Some months ago she disappeared for three nights straight, but I won't hold my breath after seven.  I've made numerous calls to local vets, DSE, Wildlife Victoria...Animal Rescue etc. all to no avail and searches of neighbouring yards for fur or remains have also been fruitless... I'm still amazed she survived as long as she did.  Anyway, it was certainly an enjoyable (and educational!) six months.  She will be sadly missed. Once again, thanks for your time and response to my emails.

Got a question? Ask us!

UPDATE: Ally has been spotted again!

Links

WILD: Amazing animals in a changing world

Bioinformatics

Comments (12)

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Nicole Kearney 22 November, 2012 09:12
I love that you've posted about this story Max (I knew about Ally's story from the beginning). Very sad to hear she's disappeared - I hope she's just having an adventure somewhere...
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susan hall 11 December, 2012 21:36
I personally knew Ally from day one - her Mum still comes by for a feed every night along with Ally's best friend Ewok! She's sadly missed!!! The marsupial experts say, "They shouldn't be fed!" The 'gardening gurus' say, "Put out food to stop them destroying your prize plants!" Talk about stuck between a rock and a hard place - just for the record, Ally and her friends were (and still are) fed a mixture of grapes, apples, pears, peaches, over-ripe bananas and the occasional morsel of unprocessed wholemeal/multi-grain bread.
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Fras 2 January, 2013 23:49
We have an Albino possum who lives in our backyard. It frightened the life out of me! We always have had the grey ones but not this!! It's actually gold in colour and we have photos. Seems to be quite rare and maybe it's related to Ally. If anyone's after the pictures I am happy to email them. We are in Yarraville.
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Richard 9 January, 2013 01:18
Hi around the first month of 2012 I saw a baby albino possum with its mother. And again about 6 months later on the power lines. My mother has been feeding them for years and last night near the feed tray was the albino much larger and lighter in color it hung around for some time and I would say this may be Alley this time I had my camera with me and have taken a few pictures because no one would believe me but now I have proof and also my mother. I Live in East Brighton near 2 well known schools and would be happy to send the pictures to you and location details Because I am sure this is the same possum alive and well
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Discovery Centre 10 January, 2013 13:20

Richard,

Well spotted! And yes - we would love to see your photos. More than likely it is Ally as the chances of another Albino possum in Brighton are rather slim, though not impossible.

Fras,

We would also be happy for you to send us your photos too.

 For Museum Victoria's position on feeding possums, please refer to our webpage Feeding native animals.

Thanks.

Tanya 22 January, 2013 20:17
Am hoping you find Ally. A few years ago, we had an albino possum we named Snowy living in our roof for over 3 years - we live near you in Hampton, so would be nice to think they may have been related somehwere along the line. In that time she had numerous grey babies, however my favourite one who came to us when we called her was Andy, who after many grey babies, had her own albino baby. Due to the amount of deaths from feral cats and dogs in the area, we gave Andy and her baby to a wildlife sanctuary. We still feed possums every now and again, but leave them be for the most part. If you would like photo's of them let me know as we have lots
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Simon 18 February, 2013 00:23
Hi, I believe I may have found and photographed the famous 'Ally' in Hampton. I will post photos tomorrow. Kind Regards, Simon
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Discovery Centre 18 February, 2013 10:01
Hi Simon - that would be lovely news! We look forward to your photos; please feel free to send them to discoverycentre@museum.vic.gov.au[.]
Bruce Wilson 17 May, 2013 21:14
I have spotted an albino possum near Cygnet on the Huon River, southern Tas. I am quite old & spent a lot of time in the bush all over Oz & this is the first I have ever seen.
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Rod Newman 9 December, 2013 10:00
I have two (2) Albino male possums living in the the roof of the house, one for 10 years and is a great pet, and the other is now 12 months old. The young one is very tame and and sits on the window ledge every night. He even came out for dinner at 3pm on a sunny day on one occasion. They are both Albino having pink/red eyes. I love them both and I can call them and they come crashing through the trees and come into the house if the door is open.
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Michelle Tanzen 13 August, 2014 07:50
We have a female albino possum living in Upwey. I hadn't seen her for at least a year, the last time she had a grey baby on her back. How far could they travel to find new feeding grounds? I always thought that albinos couldn't reproduce.
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Discovery Centre 17 August, 2014 11:23

Hi Michelle,

The home range (feeding grounds) of a Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) vary depending on the amount of food available and the population density of possums in any particular area. Home ranges decrease as food becomes more abundant, and as the population density increases - and vice versa. This will change over the years as circumstances change, and a possum will sometimes leave its home range altogether and set up a new one somewhere else. But generally a possum's home range is in the vicinity of 1-15 hectares.

Coincidentally, an albino Brushtail Possum living in Hampton was spotted two kilometres from where it was first seen a year previously. More information can be found here and here.

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