Living in harmony with possums

Brushtail and Ringtail possums are native marsupial species that have adapted well to urbanisation and are commonly found dwelling in Australian gardens.

Ringtail possums are a social species that live in nests, called dreys, several metres above the ground. They build them out of bark and leaves and usually dwell in them as a family. Brushtail possums are larger, more territorial possums that usually reside in tree hollows. The trees and gardens around our houses provide a modified woodland environment similar to their natural habitat and both species feed on native plants found in abundance in suburban gardens.

Many households are fortunate to share their property with one or more possums. It can be fun, especially for children, to learn about them and look out for them at dusk moving around your property and along cables in the street. However, they can become a nuisance if they eat your prized plants or nest in your roof space.

There are many things you can do to make sure you and possums are able to live in harmony with each other. To stop possums from damaging ornamental plants or fruit in your garden:

  • Build a floppy fence around the garden. Use 80cm wide, heavily galvanised chicken wire. Bury the bottom 20cm and support the remainder on vertical lengths of flexible, high-tensile fencing wire. Bend the wire to curve the upper section outwards. When the possum attempts to climb the fence it will bend over and then spring back.
  • Use collars to protect fruit trees.
  • Do not put food out for possums. They have specialist diets adequately provided for by the natural environment. Putting food out for possums will not necessarily stop them from eating your garden plants.

If you have possums residing in your roof you should provide them with an alternative home and make sure they have left your roof before preventing them from gaining access to your roof again. The key steps are:

  • Place a nest box in a sheltered area of your property.
  • If possible, locate the possum’s nest inside your roof and place this in the new possum house to encourage the possum to move in.
  • Take action to make the roof space unattractive to the possum. This can be done by placing quassia chips, camphor blocks, or mothballs in the roof space. Also place a light in the roof cavity and keep it switched on.
  • When the possum has moved into its new home, locate their entry point to your roof space and block off access. Make sure the possums are not in your roof before blocking off access.
  • Prune any tree branches that give the possums access to your roof.
  • If these steps are unsuccessful and you need further assistance to remove possums from your roof and release them onto your property, you will need to abide by the legal requirements for possum trapping in Victoria.

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