10 Things You Didn’t Know About Possums in Australia
The Australian wildlife is majorly defined by possums, koalas and kangaroos. In Australia man and mammal live in harmony with of course man having the luxurious privileges provided by the leather and fur of these particular animals.
The fur trade in 1837 is the reason possums were introduced to New Zealand. Regrettably due to the luscious supply of vegetation and no risk of being devoured by any other species the multitude of possums has grown miserably.
The number of possums have grown to such an extent that the inconvenience gave birth to The National Possum Control Agencies in the 1990’s.
Most popular species of possums in Australia:
There are 23 different possum species, however from this lot the most common of them all are the following two species that you are most likely to have as unwanted guests.
So if you hear animal sounds in the night, be rest-assured it is not a werewolf lurking in the shadows or howling to the moon but just an unwanted possum that’s in your vicinity.
Bush tail possum:
The bush tail possum is one that dwells partly in trees. The name bush tail possum is derived from the word Trichosurus vulpecular which actually means little furry tailed fox in Greek and Latin.
The bush tail possum does not originate from New Zealand, however it is a primordial part of Australia.
The size of the same is usually as that of a domestic cat and is known to be the second biggest possum in Australia
The bush tail possum is known to be of a darker colour when residing or inhabiting in denser or wetter forests. The ones in Australia tend to have distinct features of a pointed face, pink nose and oval shaped ears complimented by a black bushy tail.
Tasmania having bush tail possums of silver, grey, black and gold colour, takes an upper hand in having a variety of bush tail possums.
Ring tail possums:
The Australian ring tail possum is a mammal that gets its name from the Greek and Latin word Pseudocheirus peregrines meaning false hand pilgrim. It has many natural environments that it inhabits and has a diet that consists of a variety of plants and vegetation. This kind of possum species does not live in or populate New Zealand.
The ringtail possum is the size of a small cat and is grey in colour with white fur looking like an icy tip at the end of its long tail although it is naked underneath its tail up till its tip. It can be grey or dark grey in colour with orange or red shaded legs and bellies.
The female ringtail possum is called a Jill, the male is called a jack and their young are called joeys. A family or collection of them is called a passel.
Possum population control:
Regardless of the many measures taken to control possum population or for their removal, possums are found be inhabiting the eastern and SW Western Australia. Bush tail possums thrive in every part of Mainland Australia, Tasmania and Kangaroo Island.
There are firm laws against moving and trapping possums in the country in order to support the commercial trade of meat and skins and protect crops.
The current situation of most people living in Melbourne, Australia seems to be that of a frustrated home owner who does not think that these fur balls are cute enough to be tolerated especially when they seem to be destroying precious gardening and verandas with their eating and urination or dropping habits.
All you need to know about possums:
The possum diet being herbivorous in nature consists of leaves, flowers, ferns, fruits. They do possess a special liking for eucalyptus. Bush tail possums are more tolerant in nature towards toxic vegetation and tend to eat many plants that other animals stay away from due to the fact of those plants being poisonous.
Some possums do believe in devouring insects, moths, snails, birds and eggs. They tend to be drawn to new plants shoots or saplings and are very tempted by domestic gardens where they believe that everything from magnolias to mangoes are God’s gracious meal to them.
This is also a reason why a garden that is infested with a possum is garden that will be nuked given a few days’ time.
Here are a few plants in your garden you might want to protect with extra devotion since they happen to be possum favourites:
Fruits: Apples, pears, grapes and bananas.
Vegetables: corn, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and broccoli
Native species: Many of the Acacia and Wattle species, and also many Eucalypts.
Fact 2: Possum Self-defence:
Like most other animals possums mark their territory by urinating. Another method of marking their territory involves them rubbing their oil from their chest, chin or anus.
The bush tail possum in particular possesses a reddish brown oil gland stain on its chest fur that aids it in marking its territory Possums are timid in nature and believe in staring at each other with rampant ears in order to defend their territory.
Ring tail possums like skunks let out a strong smell through their anus. Although they are quite sheepish in nature possums will definitely put up a fight in their defence.
Bush tail possums do believe in voicing themselves by making screeching, chattering, coughing, grunting or hissing sounds
Fact 3: The possum abode:
Possums prefer living in rainforests, eucalypt forests and wooden garden areas and plantations that have heavy greenery close to a water source. Even though their houses are not underground homes possums are more than pleased to live in hollows of trees.
Despite all this possums still purse roof tops, domestic garden, chimneys and garages to make their home, perhaps it’s safe to conclude they like dark places and are extremely talented at hiding which makes their control and removal a tough job indeed.
Fact 4: Behaviour:
These critters only eat in between dusk and dawn which makes it quite effortless to destroy domestic areas like gardens, garages and roof tops. Bush tail possums tend to choose companionship when they want to mate.
Ring tail possums on the other hand are found to reside in larger groups or families where one male and two female equally partake in parenting or the provision of food.
The young of both ring tail and bush tail possums are taken care of in their mother’s pouch where they are also able to feed on the mother’s milk for 4-5 months after which the young continues to be trained by riding on the parents back for 4-8 weeks.
Possums are sexually active on completion of 13 months of age. Possums can have many young ones as a result of their life span being anywhere between 6-11 years.
Possums like cats can jump from trees to roof that have a distance of 4 metres. They are also known to climb vertical walls, pull of tiles from the roof areas and also manage to make their way through the tiniest spaces. Possums have been spotted strutting along power lines and fine branches.
Like monkeys possums are quite creative in behaviour and can hang off one another’s tails to use team work to rob vegetation from domestic gardens. This is probably one of the strongest reasons why you shouldn’t entertain them in your home for long.
Fact 5: Destructions
Possums tend destroy a lot in their surrounding without having the intention to do so. As possums have a likelihood of eating anything or taking room anywhere they feel secure roofs, sheds, attics verandas are usually destroyed by their urination, droppings, and markings of their area with oil glands.
The result of all this is not only an unhygienic atmosphere that stinks but also an untidy place as they are believed to destroy ductwork or tear insulation.
As there are quite a few animals that can cause similar damage looking for a possums foot marks can help you be certain that one is dealing with a possum.
Fact 6: Fur, Skin and Meat
With soft, silky, and hollow fibre, possum fur provides perfect insulation and is the best for soft and light garments.
Fact 7: Diseases and immunities
Australia is tuberculosis free. However unlike Australian possums, bovine tuberculosis is prevalent in possums found in New Zealand. Possums are likely to have parasites, ticks, mites and other bacterial infections which can be passed on other animals or even humans.
The droppings of possums are prone to carrying the buruli bacteria which causes significant skin ulcers. It is advised to remove possum droppings from ones surroundings as much as one can and also sanitise ones hands after to ensure restriction to bacteria.
Fact 8: Rare Tail
With an extremely efficient tail tip that allows the Bushtail possum to grasp tree branches with ease. As for the Ringtail possum, the tip has a white tip, which is coiled when not in use. It serves them well for carrying nesting materials, food, etc.
Fact 9: Possum Talk
Male and female possums believe in communicating through noises that sound like smacking. Joeys on the other hand tend to hiss or sneeze in situation that involving danger or a stressed atmosphere.
Fact 10: Major drawbacks
Possums feed on almost all vegetation and can be harmful to trees as well as gardens. They also tend to destroy ones roof once it becomes their habitat.
As quoted before possums are harmful to crops and home gardens that consist of trees, flowers, bushes and other plants.
There are a number of diseases that are carried by the animals or exist in their faeces.
About the author: Muzi Tsolakis heads Protech Pest control known to offer services for possum control in Melbourne. For any infestation in your home or office, seek out professional help and expertise for effective possum removal in Melbourne.