The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas.
( click here
to see geographic restrictions).
The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Burramys parvus
16 Mar 2001
Profile last updated:
07 Sep 2012
Mountain Pygmy-possum adults average 40 grams but vary from 30 grams in spring up to 80 grams in autumn when they fatten for winter hibernation. Of the total length of 250 mm, over half is tail. The fur is dense and fine, grey-brown above and creamy to bright fawn under the body. The nose is pink and there are dark shadows around the eyes. The tail, which can be coiled, is furred for 2 cm at its base, then greyish-pink, with short, sparse hairs. In its mountain habitat, this species could only be mistaken for a House Mouse, but its larger size, part furry and coiled tail, 5 (not 4) front toes, and joined (syndactyl) second and third back toes should be enough to distinguish it.
The Mountain Pygmy-possum lives only in alpine and subalpine areas on the highest mountains of Victoria and NSW. In NSW the entire range is in a 30 km by 8 km area of Kosciuszko National Park between Thredbo and Kerries Ridge, where it occupies less than four square kilometres of habitat. The total population size is less than 500 adults. Two of the four main sub-populations in NSW are found within ski resort areas.
Habitat and ecology
- Lives on the ground in rocky areas where boulders have accumulated below mountain peaks; frequently associated with alpine heathland shrubs dominated by the Mountain Plum-pine (Podocarpus lawencei).
- Survives winter by fattening in late summer and autumn and hibernating for up to seven months, from autumn until the snow melts in spring.
- Seventy percent of the diet is invertebrates such as the migratory Bogong Moth, caterpillars, beetles, spiders and millipedes; the remainder comprises fruits and seeds from species such as the Mountain Plum Pine and Snow Beard-heath.
- One litter of four young are produced in spring; young are independent by late summer; breeds when one year old; average longevity is two to three years but females may live up to thirteen years and males five years.
- Daily movements between habitat patches can be up to 1 km for females and 3 km for males; males and young animals disperse in autumn.
- The only Australian mammal to be entirely restricted to the alpine zone in areas above the winter snowline; it is dependant on the insulation provided by snow for its survival.
Regional distribution and habitat
Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.
- Loss, degradation and fragmentation of habitat from ski resort operations and snow sports.
- Predation from the Feral Cat
- Mistaken identity - confused for vermin when they enter ski lodges and other buildings.
- Fire damage to Mountain Plum-pine and other shrub cover.
- Impacts on Bogong Moths from drought, agricultural practices and chemicals in the winter breeding grounds.
- Global warming reducing rainfall and snow cover, affecting food resources, increasing competition and predation in Mountain Pygmy-possum habitat.
- Genetic loss and small populations
- Weed invasion
- Habitat degradation by feral rabbits and deer.
- Predation from the European Red Fox
A targeted strategy for managing this species has been developed under the Saving Our Species program; click here
for details. For more information on the Saving Our Species program click here
Activities to assist this species
- Control foxes and feral cats in Mountain Pygmy-possum habitat.
- Do not use rat traps or poisons in buildings in areas of Mountain Pygmy-possum habitat.
- Protect all areas of habitat from fire. Establish fire avoidance and control plans.
- Protect habitat including hibernation sites and movement corridors from disturbance. Some areas of habitat at Mt Blue Cow have been closed to ski slope activities.
- Protect all habitat, especially potential warm-climate refugia.
- Support actions to reduce global warming.
- Research on Bogong Moth ecology and impacts of agricultural activities on populations.
- Broome, L.S. (2001) Density, home range, seasonal movements and habitat use of the mountain pygmy-possum Burramys parvus (Marsupialia: Burramyidae) at Mount Blue Cow, Kosciuszko National Park. Austral Ecology 26(3): 275-292
- Broome, L.S. (2001) Intersite differences in population demography of Mountain Pygmy-possums Burramys parvus Broom (1986–1998): implications for metapopulation conservation and ski resorts in Koskiuszko National Park, Australia. Biological Conservation 102(3): 309-323
- Broome, L.S. (2008) Mountain Pygmy Possum Burramys parvus Broom, 1896. Pp. 210-2 in Van Dyck and Strahan, R. (eds.) The Mammals of Australia. Third Edition. (Reed New Holland, Sydney)
- Mansergh, I.M. and Broome, L.S. (1994) The Mountain Pygmy-possum of the Australian Alps. (University of New South Wales Press, Sydney)
- McDougall, K.L. and Walsh, N.G. (2007) Treeless vegetation of the Australian Alps. Cunninghamia 10(1): 1-57
- Mitrovski, P., Heinze, D.A., Broome. L., Hoffmann, A.A. and Weeks, A.R. (2007) High levels of variation despite genetic fragmentation in populations of the endangered mountain pygmy-possum, Burramys parvus, in alpine Australia. Molecular Ecology 16(1): 75-87
- NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (2002) Recovery Plan for the Mountain Pygmy-possum Burramys parvus. (NSW NPWS, Hurstville)
- NSW Scientific Committee (2001) Mountain Pygmy-possum - Endangered species determination - final.
- NSW Scientific Committee (2009) Mountain Pygmy-possum Burramys parvus - Review of Current Information in NSW.
- Sanecki, G.M., Green, K., Wood, H. and Lindenmayer, D. (2006) The implications of snow-based recreation for small mammals in the subnivean space in south-east Australia. Biological Conservation 129(4): 511-8
- Schulz, M., Wilks, G. and Broome, L. (2012) An uncharacteristic new population of the Mountain Pygmy-possum Burramys parvus in New South Wales. Australian Zoologist 36(1): 22-8
- Williams, R.J., Wahren, C.-H., Tolsma, A.D., Sanecki, G.M., Papst, W.A., Myers, B.A., McDougall, K.L., Heinze, D.A. and Green, K. (2008) Large fires in Australian alpine landscapes: their part in the historical fire regime and their impacts on alpine biodiversity. International Journal of Wildland Fire 17(6): 793-808
Known or predicted
Geographic restrictions region
|Murray||New South Wales Alps||
|Murrumbidgee||New South Wales Alps (Part B)||
|Southern Rivers||New South Wales Alps||
||sth - nth range between Dead Horse Gap and Mt Jugungle|