A family of possums sit on a tree branch.
A family of possums sit on a tree branch. Contributed

Help possums find a home

WITH a lack of natural habitat for them to house in, possums often find refuge on the roof of a suburban house.

The Backyard Buddies program has some advice to get rid of that late night pitter-patter on the roof and help these lovely marsupials find a nice home.

The Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife CEO Steve Corbett said relocating the possum was not a good option as most possums did not survive a relocation.

"This is because possums are a highly territorial species," Mr Corbett said.

"When introduced to a new area, your possum is likely to be attacked by resident possums defending their own territory, or by cats or foxes as it is scampering around on the ground trying to find a new nest site."

He said by getting rid of one possum, you could just be inviting others in.

"A new possum will usually move into the territory vacated by any possum relocated anyway, so relocation is not a good option if you have a possum sharing your roof."

Instead Mr Corbett said the best thing you could do is encourage them outdoors by providing a nest box, and blocking up entry points to your roof while there are no animals inside of it, such as at night time when the possum goes out to feed.

Mr Corbett said residents should count themself lucky if they see possums as they are fascinating to watch.

"Ringtail Possums are amazing acrobats that use their tails like an extra hand to grip onto tree branches and even carry sticks.

"You can tell a Ringtail Possum by its thin, tapering tail, the last third of which is white. In contrast, a Brushtail Possum has a large, bushy dark tail which is the same colour over the entire length.

"Brushtail Possums don't build nests. They need tree hollows or nest boxes to sleep in during the day. By providing a nest box, you'll be able to enjoy seeing your possum forage for food outdoors at dusk without worrying about what's going in your roof cavity.

"Having a possum in your backyard means you may even spot one of the cutest sights imaginable-a baby possum riding around on mum's back as she nimbly climbs fences and tree branches," Mr Corbett said.

 

Tips for encouraging possums out of the roof:

  • Buy or build a nest box and put it at least 4 m up a big tree to provide an alternative nest site.
  • Discourage possums from running over your roof at night by trimming back overhanging branches so they don't come within 1.5 metres of the gutter.
  • Find out where possums are entering your roof by plugging up any holes with crumpled newspaper at night when possums are outside feeding. Check the next day to see which holes have been forced open. The next night when you are sure all possums are out of the roof, seal up entry points with timber.
  • Have a one way door installed over a hole in your roof so possums can get out but can't get back in again.
  • Avoid removing old trees, as hollows they provide can take from 70 to 100 years to develop. The fewer big trees there are around, the more likely possums are to live in ceilings.
  • Spread mothballs in your roof as possum really dislike the smell.

 

Tips to look after local possums:

  • Keep cats inside, especially at night when possums are active and looking for food.
  • Put a heavy rock or brick on top of your compost bin so possums don't investigate.
  • Avoiding feeding possums regularly as they can become dependent upon humans. Feeding Brushtail Possums bread can give them a condition called 'Lumpy Jaw', which can be fatal.
  • Take any pet food indoors at night so possums don't eat it.
  • Plant some native trees that you are happy for possums to snack on such as Heath Banksias and Silky Tea-Trees.
  • Watch out for native animals on the road when driving, particularly at night.
  • If you have room, plant some eucalypts so that future possums have somewhere to live.

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