Possums may look cute with their big wide eyes and little pink noses, but for most, the cuteness is quickly forgotten when the marsupials lay waste to precious fruit trees and disrupt sleep by nesting in the roof.
While native wildlife is sacred in Australia, many can’t help feeling annoyed at the habits of our furry friends, but there are a few routes you can take to deal with your possum woes.
If you want to peacefully co-exist with possums, Mhairi Roberts, RSPCA Victoria’s animal welfare policy manager, told Starts at 60 there are many things Aussies can do to build a more positive relationship with the local wildlife. Roberts says providing a dish of water on hot days and making sure you don’t feed them are great steps to support your native wildlife.
To deter possums from eating your fruit in a natural way, Roberts recommends planting native species to provide varied and appropriate food sources. She also suggests that setting up a nest box will reduce the likelihood they will set up camp in your roof.
“The key steps are to place [the] 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,” she advises.
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Roberts says home-owners should then make their roof space unattractive for possums by placing quassia chips, camphor blocks, or mothballs in it. Placing a light in the roof cavity and keeping it switched on is also a good option, as possums prefer the dark.
When the possum has moved out of the roof, locate the entry point and block it up to avoid future habitations, she advised. Pruning any tree branches that give the possums access to your roof also helps.
To protect your fruit and vegetable garden, Roberts recommends building a floppy fence around the garden with 80cm wide, heavily galvanised chicken wire. To make it effective you need to bury the bottom 20cm (to avoid the possum burrowing under) 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.
As for fruit trees, Roberts notes netting is an effective option but can be dangerous. “Netting can be effective, but if it is not used in the correct manner, it can pose a serious risk to wildlife such as flying foxes, birds, possums, and even snakes.” she said. “If using netting, always be sure to purchase ‘wildlife friendly’ netting and install it correctly.”
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Roberts also notes that many people feed possums to distract them from their own vegetable, but it is ineffective as a long-term solution.
“Putting food out for possums will not necessarily stop them from eating your garden plants and can be very harmful to the animals.” she said.
If you are not fussed on trying out the natural solutions, though, or you have found the above tips are not working, you can attempt to relocate the possum with the help of your local council. But Roberts urges Australians to try natural solutions before attempting relocation.
“Possums are highly territorial animals and relocating them can be very stressful. We would recommend exhausting all other management options before considering relocation,” she said.
If you plan to relocate a possum you will need to check the legal requirements for possum trapping with your state or territory government as they differ around the country.
Have you had problems dealing with possums before? What was your solution?