May 18th 2002
Living with Possums
Welcome to the first of our regular articles, which will appear monthly in the Maggie Times.
The most recognised symbol of QPWS is Herbie, the Herbert River Ringtail possum that appears on our badges and publications.Feeding
Island residents may be more familiar with the more common Brushtail possum. Brushtail possums are common around Townsville and Magnetic Island. They have adapted very well to living with people.
Each year, the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service receives a large amount of calls from residents concerned about possums in their house, or to rescue sick or injured animals.
Because they are a native animal, they are protected in Queensland and a permit is required to trap or remove them. Rangers will not usually trap a healthy animal, as catching and releasing a possum some distance away usually leads to its death. Possums are highly territorial and animals that have been moved can face a slow death. Removing one possum will also not solve the problem, because there is usually another one ready to move straight in.
Brushtail possums shelter in hollows during the day. In cities and towns where hollow limbs and dead trees are scarce, possums take advantage of broken roof tiles, or loose sheets of iron to shelter in ceilings, or between floors of houses.
Brushtail possums are a link to our natural world, and the conservation of these animals is no less important because they are common.For further information, please contact the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service on 07-47785378
QPWS rangers do not recommend feeding possums, as their good health depends on their native diet. Processed foods like bread and dairy products can compromise their immune system, leaving them open to a range of infections.
QPWS rangers generally find that while people object to possums living in floors and ceilings, they wish them no harm. Since the possum's best chance of survival is for it to stay in its own territory, the following strategies are suggested:
Find out where the possum is getting in and out. The most effective method is to cram loose wads of waste paper into all suspected access points during the daytime. After dark, a resident possum will push out the paper to leave the den.
Make repairs to prevent entry. This can be done between 8pm and 10pm when the possum is outside feeding. Repairs must be sound, as possums are quite strong and will work hard to re-enter the shelter site.
If the possum is trapped inside, its noisy attempts to escape will alert you. Baby possums always ride in the mother's pouch or on her back.
Splash the old entry point with strong smelling detergent, as the possum has scent glands which mark its territory. Destroying the scent may help to stop the possum trying to re-enter the den.
Hang wooden boxes or hollow logs in trees nearby to provide the animals with other places to create a den.
by Greg Inglis
Head Ranger on Magnetic Island