Wildlife rescuers found 127 dead and injured ringtail possums at Somers Beach in Victoria during a four-day heat spell.
© Wildlife rescuers found 127 dead and injure Alyse Huyton
Wildlife rescuers found 127 dead and injured ringtail possums at Somers Beach in Victoria during a four-day heat spell.
Rescuers found 127 ringtail possums along the shoreline and in the water on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula

More than 100 dead and injured ringtail possums have been found by wildlife rescuers along a single stretch of beach in Victoria in what ecologists say is becoming an annual occurrence due to extreme heat.

Rescuers and wildlife carers discovered 127 ringtail possums along the shoreline and in the water at Somers Beach on the Mornington Peninsula on Saturday during a four-day period that saw consistent temperatures in the high 30s, warm nights and bushfires in parts of the state.

Melanie Attard, a wildlife rescuer and foster carer with Aware Wildlife in Frankston, said rescuers suspected the animals had become so dehydrated and desperate they had left an area of scrub and come down to the beach and attempted to drink salt water.

"We assume they've come out due to the heat stress heading for the water in desperation," she said.

"It's not nice seeing a possum throwing itself into the beach and drinking seawater. It's really desperate."

Attard said 100 of the animals had died while the remaining possums had been taken into care. Only half had survived and would be released back into the wild when they had recovered.

Veterinary staff working with Wildlife Health Victoria: Surveillance at Melbourne University are investigating the cause of the deaths.

Malcolm Legg, a Mornington Peninsula-based ecologist who has been monitoring the situation for a decade, said: "It's pretty much an annual event now whenever we get heatwaves of two days or more.

"The possums are just collapsing, out of trees, run down by cars, taken by cats and dogs.

"Last week they were going down to the water and getting so desperate they were dying on the spot."

He said the situation was similar to heat stress deaths that have affected other species this summer, including the spectacled flying fox in Queensland.