Ski resort development may destroy pygmy-possum habitat. A study at Mt Buller showed that ski resorts have a huge negative impact on genetic diversity in the possums.
Climate change may have a devastating impact on many alpine plants and animals as the environment warms and less snow falls. A major fire in 2003 burnt much of the Victorian habitat, and predation by introduced cats and foxes is another serious concern.
Amazing Mountain Pygmy-possums
Mountain Pygmy-possums are tiny marsupials not much bigger than mice. They have thick grey fur, a long prehensile tail, and nimble feet for grasping and climbing. They are nocturnal and secretive.
First described in the 1890s from fossil bones, they were believed to be extinct until 1966 when a live possum was found in a ski lodge. The entire range is only about ten square kilometres and in 2008, total numbers were estimated at 1700 adult females and 550 adult males.
In the brief warm months these animals gorge on Bogong Moths, seeds and fruits to build up reserves of fat. They can double their weight during this time of plenty. They also store nuts and seeds to eat during the freezing winter.
Mountain Pygmy-possums hibernate for up to seven months, curled up in nests two to four metres under the snow. During this time they drop their temperature from 35°C to around 2°C. They wake occasionally to nibble on their stored food.
Males hibernate in slightly warmer locations and rouse from hibernation before females. They scurry between boulders seeking females for mating in October or November. The females carry their four babies in a pouch until they are too large, then leave them in the nest for another month until they are weaned.