Mount Hotham

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Mountain Pygmy Possum

 The Mountain pygmy possum was believed extinct until it was discovered within the University Ski Club at Mount Hotham in 1966.  The endangered Mountain Pygmy possum (Burramys parvus) is the only mammal restricted to the alpine and sub-alpine areas of mainland Australia. Currently, three genetically distinct regional populations are recognised from the Mount Kosciuszko area, the Mount Bogong to Mount Higginbotham area, and Mount Buller.  Substantial colonies occur within the Mount Hotham Alpine Resort, in particular at Mount Higginbotham and Mount Little Higginbotham where their main habitat is basalt boulderfield and associated heath vegetation above 1400 metres elevation (Heinz, Broome & Mansergh, 2004). An Environmental Significance Overlay for the Resort, covering Mountain Pygmy-possum habitat has been incorporated into the Alpine Resorts Planning Scheme.  This is designed to preserve and enhance habitat, prevent destruction and fragmentation of existing habitat, provide movement corridors and ensure development does not have an adverse impact upon Mountain Pygmy Possum habitat. 

The Mountain Pygmy Possum weighs approximately 45 grams and has a mouse like body covered in grey fur and a long tail.  Mountain Pygmy Possums can have a life span of approximately 11-12 years for females and five years for males.  Their diet consists mainly of Bogong Moths, seed and berries especially of Podocarpus laurencei . Breeding season generally begins co-incident with spring thaw and the arrival of Bogong Moths, the Pygmy Possums store seeds and nuts in its food cache to be accessed during hibernation.  As one of the worlds only hibernating marsupials, they lower their metabolic rate by 98% for several days before waking to dine on food stores.  Usually a female will produce a single litter of four young annually.  While more young can be born females have four nipples and can only raise four pouch young.  Young last four to five weeks within the pouch when they are left in a nest to suckle until fully developed and independent to leave the nest at nine to 10 weeks (Heinz, Broome & Mansergh, 2004). 

Major threats to Pygmy Possums within the resort come from the presence of dogs and feral cats, impacts on habitat from sedimentation runoff into boulderfields, particularly those below the Great Alpine Road and more generally from impacts of climate change.  Tunnels under the Great Alpine Road and Higgi Drive at Mount Higgibotham have been constructed to reduce habitat fragmentation and provide a safe corridor within the resort.