Backyard Buddies
Possums

Photo: Ken Stepnell/OEH

Possums

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Possums live in the trees and occasionally come down to the ground to look for food. Brushtail Possums live in tree hollows and Ringtail Possums in the south of Australia build a nest out of sticks. Both kinds of possum may live in our roof if they can’t find suitable homes in trees.

Possums live in territories and mark the boundaries with smells. They rub the scent from glands under their chin, chest and base of tail against trees so everybody knows who’s the boss in the area. Possums protect their territories by fighting off intruders.

The body of a possum is made for life in the trees. They have strong, sharp claws, and hand-like back feet. The Ringtail Possum has a prehensile tail which acts like another hand to help it grip tree branches with ease. They can also use it to carry nesting material.

Ringtail Possums live along the east coast of Australia and in the south-west corner of Western Australia. They get their name from their thin, white-tipped tail which can grip onto tree branches.

In southern Australia, Ringtails build nests called dreys out of sticks, bark and grass.

Brushtail Possums do not build dreys. They live in tree hollows, nest boxes or roofs. Brushtails get their name from their thick, bushy tail. As well as in the areas the Ringtail is found, the Brushtail also lives in the centre of Australia and a greater area of south-east South Australia.

You can look after possums in your own backyard

Many of our possums are dependent on tree hollows. They need them to sleep in during the daylight hours. Competition from other possums, birds, bats and gliders along with the clearing of many old trees has reduced suitable hollows and possums often move in to the roof or walls of your home. They are not quiet – if you have a possum in your roof, you will soon know about it!

By providing a nest box outside about 4m up in a tree, your backyard can become a better home for possums.

Simple things that you do can make a huge difference to Australia’s animals. That’s why the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife is running Backyard Buddies— to give you tips to help.

What is a backyard buddy?

Backyard buddies are the native animals that share our built-up areas, our beaches and waterways, our backyards and our parks. The possum is a backyard buddy.

Backyard buddies are also the local people who value the living things around them, like possums, and are willing to protect and encourage them by doing a few simple things around their own homes.

So you can be a backyard buddy.

Be a backyard buddy

It’s easy. All you have to do is care... and take a few simple steps.

Step one is to find out what possums do and do not like.

Possums love:

Eucalyptus leaves – they are the Ringtail Possums’ favourite food. They, and Brushtails, also eat flowers, fruits and veggies. In your garden they love to eat roses, gardenias, fuchsias and passionfruit.

Tree hollows – to nest and sleep in safely. Eucalypt hollows take over one hundred years to develop, and competition for them can be stiff.

Night time – especially the first half, when they are active and searching for food. Possums rest during the day.

Nest boxes – as tree hollows are in short supply. Nest boxes encourage possums to nest outside, instead of in your roof.

But they don't like:

Trappers – who take them away from their territories. It is very stressful for a possum to be relocated and most don’t survive.

Stinky plants – like chrysanthemums, mint bushes, geraniums and daisies.

Spiky plants - possums don’t like spiny grevilleas and hakeas, or tough, woody banksias.

Bright lights – such as spotlights, porch lights or party lights.

Be a possum buddy

Try to:

Avoid:

Don't be surprised if:

Possums are highly territorial and relocating them outside your property is illegal.

Find out more about your buddies

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