Finding Domestic Harmony with Brushed-tailed Possums
You can recognise a Brush-tailed Possum by its thick, bushy tail and watching one scamper around the backyard is a typically Australian experience. Brushies live in backyards and the bush across Australia, and whether they’re foraging for food or taking their young on an evening excursion, they make a charming and familiar sight.
If your brushy buddy has adapted to the suburban life a bit too well and is moving in on your flower beds, plant a good selection of native shrubs for them to feast on instead and they may just start to leave your rosebuds alone.
If possums are running over your roof at night and sounding like a herd of stampeding elephants, trim any overhanging branches that come within 1.5 m of the gutter.
You can help look after Brush-tailed Possums in your Backyard
Possums prefer to reside in tree hollows, but many animals, birds and insects of both the native and non-native variety want to live in them too. As more mature trees get cut down from our suburbs, there are less and less natural homes for possums and other creatures.
This encourages Brush-tailed Possums to seek alternative nest sights – such as in your roof.
You can help them find a new home by building a nesting box and encouraging them back out. Tempt the possum to the new tree-house by putting some fruit near it. When you’re sure your roof is empty of possums and any other creatures, block up the entry holes. Your buddies should soon find the nest box and establish themselves there.
Be a Backyard Buddy
If you don’t have a good collection of Aussie natives in your backyard, plant some for your possums to feast on – this will help keep them out of your garden.
- Eucalyptus, which they feast on as well as a range of other leaves and berries and, if they can get their paws on it, your compost, too!
- Tree hollows where they can nest and sleep in safety. But eucalypt hollows take over one hundred years to develop, and competition for them can be stiff.
- Nighttime. They especially enjoy the first half of the night, when they head out to search for food.
- Changing locations. When a possum is taken away from their territory it is very stressful for them – most don’t survive.
- Stinky plants. They don’t like chrysanthemums, mint bushes, geraniums or daisies – so they’re safe from being eaten. They’ll also turn their whiskers up at spiny grevillias, hakeas, woody banksias and tea-trees.
- Bright lights. They’ll steer well clear of spotlights, porch lights or party lights.
- Cars. Look out for wildlife on the sides of the road as you’re driving at night, as possums are often hit by cars. Call a wildlife carer if you see an injured possum or other creature.
- Dogs, who attack them as they go out looking for food at night.
Be a Buddy to Brush-tailed Possums
- Build or buy a nest box that can offer your possum buddies a hangout for daytime naps or a safe place to sleep through winter.
- Drive carefully down tree-lined streets at night.
- Keep your cat or dog inside at night, as this is when possums come out to feed.
- Keep a lid on your garbage and compost, so possum fingers can’t go exploring.
- Cutting down trees with hollows in them. These are prime locations for native animals to sleep and have their young in – when there’s no room in the trees, they start to move into your roof and walls.
- Feeding the possums. Possums are wild animals and should remain self-sufficient.
- Touching or handling possums. If you find a possum that you think may need assistance, call your local wildlife rescue service or Council for advice.
- Like to keep to themselves. They’re generally solitary creatures, and like to stay within their home range.
- Dance on your roof at night. Really they’re just foraging for food, but they can cause a bit of a racket.
A few more Brush-tailed Possum facts
- Brush-tailed Possums are marsupials. The mother is pregnant for 17 days before her young is born. The newborn possum finds its way to its mother's pouch and attaches itself to a teat. The youngster will stay in the pouch and with its mum for about 7 months before it heads off into the big bad world on its own.
- These possums mark their territory by smell, coating tree branches with a scent released from glands on their chests.
- Brush-tailed possums vary in size and colour – in Queensland they have a reddish hue and are quite small, while in Tasmania they are a dark grey and tend to be larger and furrier.