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Possums

ParksAndRecreationPossumThe following information has been prepared to assist people who have a possum problem in Whitehorse.

There are two types of possums that are commonly found in the City of Whitehorse.

Brush-tail Possum

The brush-tail possum is about the size of a cat. It has brown to dark grey fur, quite prominent triangular ears, and a long, black, bushy tail.

These possums have a varied diet, eating leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds and even some insects, bird’s eggs and young birds. They have a range of calls, most typically a selections of grunts, sometimes likened to the sound of a person gargling. They tend to nest in tree hollows when available, but are quite prepared to move into houses, usually in the area between the roof and ceiling, or in wall cavities.

Ring-tail Possum

The ring-tail possum is a much smaller animal, about half the size of a cat. It has ginger to dark brown fur on the upper part of its body, with a white underside. It has rounded ears, and a long, non-bushy tail that is typically held slightly curled and has a white tip.

Ring-tail possums have a strictly vegetarian diet, eating a wide range of leaves, flowers and fruit. The most typical call made by a ring-tail possum is a high pitched squeaking trill, that is often mistaken for a bird. This call is usually made as an alarm or warning call. They construct a nest of leaves and twigs in the branches of trees. They rarely enter houses.

Both species of possum are native, marsupial animals, indigenous to the Whitehorse area. They are both nocturnal. They are among the very few native animals that are able to successfully share suburbia with humans. In fact they are often the only native animals that most city dwellers ever see on a regular basis.

Possums are able to survive in suburbia because our streetscapes and gardens are similar in many ways to the possum’s preferred natural environment, i.e. it is a modified woodland.

Some problems that may be associated with possums include:

  • Noise: possums are often quite rowdy when they are moving within house roofs and walls. They can also be quite noisy when mating or during territorial disputes
  • Household damage: possums can create urine stains, unpleasant odours and occasional physical damage when living inside buildings
  • Damage to gardens and trees: possums are largely vegetarian and will graze on many different types of trees and shrubs including natives and exotics. This is usually only a problem when they over-graze and in some cases defoliate plants.

Living With Possums

The best way to keep a possum out of your roof is to secure your roof and provide an alternative home such as a nesting box. Nesting boxes can be hung in trees or mounted to a timber pole in your garden. If you have a possum in your roof you will need to block the access points. In the evening when the possum has left the roof in search of food, climb into the roof and try to locate its nest.
Remove the nest and block any possible entry points so the possum cannot return. You may wish to leave a light on in the roof space for a few days to discourage the possum’s return.

Trim any branches that may be providing easy access to the roof. Consider installing a possum disc on the service line on your house. (This must be done by your power supply company).

Installing a possum band on the trunk can protect any trees that are being overgrazed. This usually consists of a piece of sheet iron or perspex that is wrapped around the trunk of the tree to prevent the possum climbing the tree.

This should be considered as a temporary measure and once the tree has recovered the band can be removed. The sheet should be at least 600mm wide. The tree must also be pruned well clear of any other trees or buildings as possums can jump a long way.

Possums and the Law

It is illegal to handle or interfere with possums except when they are in your roof, or other buildings. Only brush-tail possums can be trapped in appropriate traps by the householder or a licensed wildlife controller.

Trapped possums must be released that day on the same property, in their own territory, within 50 metres of the capture site. Breaching any of these regulations carries a penalty of up to $5000. There is no other legal avenue to deal with possums.

Relocating possums beyond 50 metres is both illegal and inhumane.

Key Contacts

RSPCA
Emergency contact for injured possums
Phone: 9224 2222

Department of Sustainability and Environment
State government department with responsibility for native animals including possums)
Phone: 136 186
Email: possum.comments@dse.vic.gov.au

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