Blackjack – what is this little creature?

This little furball joey was found on the ground after an extreme weather event, I’m told.  The teenager who picked him up mistook him for a Mountain brush-tail possum (Bobuck) because of his black coloring.

 Housed in a shoebox and kept near the TV, the creature curled up in one corner and refused to move. He trembled a lot. He was offered milk, fruit, flowers and vegetables, all of which ‘Blackjack’ rejected.  The teenager force-fed him some warm milk which poured straight into his lungs and out his nose – he also suffered violent bouts of diarrhea.  By day 3, he seemed to be near death, the guilt-ridden teenager called wildlife rescue for advice.   

One look and I knew Blackjack was not a brush-tail possum at all, although he does belong in that general family.  The clue was in the gliding membrane which stretches from elbow to ankles and spreads like a parachute when they glide from treetop to branch.  They can glide for up to a hundred meters and change direction as much as 90 degrees while doing so. On the ground they look awkward and walk like Charlie Chaplin.

 Blackjack is a Greater glider (Petauroides volans.)

These marsupials have a highly specialized diet which does not include fruit, flowers or vegetables. They only eat certain Eucalypt species and only on fresh shoots and tips of new leaves.  Diet wise they are more Koala than possum having an enlarged caecum (where bacteria breaks down the cellulose of idigestible eucalypt leaves) and eating little else.

Proper housing, diet and care will see Blackjack grow to the size of an adult cat and be returned to the wild.  Greater gliders are very private, gentle creatures who do not adapt well to change and can die from the stress of being in a cage. They rarely bite when captured/restrained and settle once covered and wrapped up.  They do best in tall, wide cages with a makeshift hollow near the top.

 Social structure:   I’m told they share a den during breeding season until the young emerge from the pouch (4months).  Adult males scent mark their territory by depositing fluid from large anal glands onto branches.

 Breeding: Females become sexually mature at two years and produce one baby a year.  The joey remains in pouch for around four months/150gr and then gets carried on her back or left in the nest while she forages. The weight of Blackjack suggested he may have lost one third of his body weight in care of the teenager – or perhaps was not found on the ground at all.  At nine months, the young leave the nest (dispersal) and find their own hollow to call home.

Habitat:  Old trees (Seventy years plus) with hollows in all sorts of forests except rainforests. 

Predation:  Powerful owls share the same environment with Greater gliders, their favorite snack.

Blackjack was reurned to the location where he was originally ‘found’ some six months after coming into my care.  The teenager said he and his friends had been hanging in the area for several days but had seen no sign of a dead mother.  Either Blackjack was thrown from her pouch, perhaps after an owl grabbed the mother, or Blackjack had lost a third of his bodyweight before he came into my care. 

No other reason for that joey to be out of a pouch at the 100grams he came to me weighing. 

Understandably, upon release, Blackjack took off and climbed to the top of the nearest tree before gliding across to another in the distance behind where our torch light couldn’t expose him. 

That’s it for this post, as always I love to see comments and subscriptions, but if thats not your thing, just ‘like’ my page so you can follow that way.  Here’s the link: 

Vicki Lee

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7 Responses to Blackjack – what is this little creature?

  1. Blackjack is an adorable Greater Glider, don’t usually see them that dark 🙂
    Your novel series sounds good too, good luck with the queries.

  2. I’m so glad he made it. And that the kid had the sense (finally) to call the experts.

  3. valerieparv says:

    You’re doing great work, the glider is gorgeous. Glad he made it back to the wild. I volunteered at the National Zoo for 11 years and still miss the animal contact.

  4. Lorelei Bell says:

    I’m happy to meet you, Vicki. My husband and I manage a wetlands/prairie preserve. We love the wildlife, but the dog walkers are taking over and not keeping dogs on leash, as requested. Very frustrating also when even the administration will let someone get off on a ticket for violation. I’m not sure if the words “wild life preserve” really means anything any more.

    Very interesting, I learned something at this post, and so happy you were able to save the little guy. Hope to read more on this and other things about you!

  5. Vicki Lee says:

    Thanks for you comments everyone. He was a delight once he settled in and was comfortable with us handlng him. He was in an enclosure 3m wide and 6m long and we’d go in after dark and put fresh branches into his big vase – sometimes he’d dive after me on my way out. Smack into my back/shoulder and climb onto the top of my head as if I were his mum. I’d walk back to the fresh browse and pause for him to nibble a bit, like his real mum would have. Serioulsy special experience.

  6. Aw, what a cutie. I saw one of these when in visited Hervey Bay a few years ago. It was also a youngster that had fallen and was thriving in care.

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