Ultra-cute 'Lemon,' a brushtail possum in WIRES care.  Photo by Maree Evans with thanks :-)

Ultra-cute ‘Lemon,’ an orphaned brushtail possum who was in WIRES care. Photo by Maree Evans used with thanks 

Last week I was fortunate to witness an Inner West WIRES release of a young possum to the urban wild.   It was a fascinating experience.

The female possum named ‘Twistie’ is now 12-months-old & was brought into care as an orphan some 9-months ago. After being fed a diet of milk that moved onto fruit & then onto native flora, she was ready to be returned to the area where she was found & given a good start to life outside of care.

The tree was climbed by a man who obviously knew what he was doing, as he used ropes, pulleys & wore safety gear. He scaled the tree & found a suitable place to attach the possum box, which will be Twistie’s home for as long as she wants it.  Possums like natural tree hollows, but these are rare in the Inner West.

Possum in a nesting box fashioned out of a hollow tree.  A spy cam took this image.  Photo by Steven Richards used with thanks.

Possum in a nesting box fashioned out of a hollow tree. A spy cam took this image.  Looks comfy, doesn’t she.  Photo by Steven Richards used with thanks.

The opening of the box was faced towards the east, so she sees the morning sun & is protected from southerly winds.  How nice is that!

A bucket of fruit will be brought daily for six weeks to help her adjust & ensure that she has enough until she learns to survive on her own. Checking how much of the fruit has been eaten provides information for the WIRES carer, who will come periodically for anything up to six months post-release.

It is unknown whether Twistie will stay in this tree or move into another that she prefers.  Inner West WIRES have had great success releasing rescued possums from care, so I don’t doubt Twistie will do well.

Possums are Australian native Australian animals & are protected by law.

Possums are an arboreal herbivorous marsupial & carry their young in a pouch until they are around 4-months old.  They are nocturnal & also great pollinators, as they feed on leaves, buds, flowers & fruits.  They enjoy exotic plants & love rose petals, herbs & some garden plants.

It is easy to protect what you want untouched, like fruit trees if you have a possum around.   You can net trees & plants, especially in the vegetable garden. Apparently possums don’t like certain smells or tastes, so using a range of the following on a regular basis will help save your plants –

  • Sprinkling Blood & Bone fertiliser around plants.
  • Spraying with commercially available possum deterrents.
  • Make your own spray of water mixed with lots crushed garlic and/or fish sauce.

Possums stay in an area of approximately 100-metres in any direction & they need to be returned to the area where they were rescued.

The idea that a possum can be removed from a roof cavity & relocated many kilometers away to start a new life is incorrect. They will die if relocated out of their area. Possums are very territorial.  They suffer extreme stress if taken to another location. It is highly likely that other possums will attack them & this will result in death. Possums will also cover great distances attempting to return to their territory, which places them at risk of attack by dogs & by being hit by motor vehicles.

If a possum is in your roof, call in an expert who will set up a one-way gate, which allows the possum to exit at night, but be unable to return to your roof cavity in the morning.  They should check to ensure that there are not young possums left in the roof & permanently block access.  They will also install a possum box offering a viable alternative to your roof.

Using a trap is not recommended.  If caught, the possum panics & will try to escape even though it is causing injury to itself.  This can cause ‘trap nose’ – a severe injury sustained while trying to escape.

Even if you take the possum out of the area, another possum will very quickly take its place, so the best thing to do is call in humane experts if one sets up home in your roof. Then install a possum box & enjoy the nocturnal wildlife in your garden – that is if you are lucky enough to see them.  We have at least one brushtail possum & one ringtail possum in our immediate neighbourhood. It is rare that anyone sees them, but there is some excitement when they are spotted.

Lastly, WIRES is run by volunteers & relies on donations.  They are currently running a Food Fund campaign to help pay for the cost of the thousands of native animals they rescue.  Spring & summer are busy months.

$10 will feed a joey for 2-weeks, feed a wombat for 1-week & feed a brushtail possum for 2-months.  Donations of $2 & over are tax deductable.  To donate & for more information see – http://www.wires.org.au

There is also a FREE WIRES Rescue App available to download for iphone, ipad, Android & tablets.  The app gives advice on what to do if you find sick, injured or orphaned wildlife & also allows you to report a native bird / animal / reptile / bat that needs rescuing. For more information see – http://bit.ly/TzDX49

'Twistie' being set up in her new home.

‘Twistie’ being set up in her new home.  The nesting box is being fixed into the fork of this tree.

Mother & baby possum. Photo by Adey May used with thanks

Mother & baby brushtail possum. Photo by Adey May used with thanks

Brushtail possum out during the day.  Photo by Kim Sutterby used with thanks.

Brushtail possum out during the day. Photo by Kim Sutterby used with thanks.