They might appear cute and harmless, but possums can be a real headache when they move into your property. They’ll cause a ruckus as they move about inside your house and pose a serious health risk to your family and pet as these animals can spread diseases through their urine and droppings.
In Australia, the brushtail possum is prevalent and can be found throughout the country. Possums damage regenerated forests, flowers, fruit trees and pine plantations. They’ll also munch on vegetables and decorative plants when they manage to sneak into your garden causing major destruction.
Being true omnivores, possums also feed on frogs, snakes, birds (and their eggs), mice, rats, voles, and snails. Their love for eggs is threatening to native bird species as it affects their ability to reproduce.
Possums can also cause some serious damage to your property by chewing on electrical wiring creating a fire hazard and an expensive problem to fix. Their fur could also be teeming with smaller pests such as ticks and fleas which they could introduce into your home. These smaller pests will cause trouble to both you and your pet.
Government protection for possums
Possums are extensively hunted for their fur (a considerably valuable item) which has resulted in the government protecting them in mainland Australia to prevent their extinction. There’re exceptions to this protection, however, as seasonal hunting is still allowed in Tasmania while landowners can obtain permits to protect their crops if they are getting attacked by the small animals.
Although their population is on the decline, possums in urban areas have adapted to humans and have moved into local neighbourhoods and residences. They generally like to live under foundations and in roofs. Trapping for eviction in residential areas is still legal in most areas in Australia while permits are required in some areas.
What is a possum’s life cycle?
Possums are like kangaroos in that they carry their young ones in pouches – animals with this trait are referred to as marsupials. A possum will go through a 17 day gestation period after which they’ll produce a single offspring. They usually breed between the months of May and June.
A newborn possum is very tiny weighing in at 2 grams and measuring about 1.5 cm. Despite the small size, a baby possum can climb into their mother’s pouch unaided. Once it gets there, the newborn attaches to a teat and begins feeding.
The fragile possum will remain inside the pouch for about 5 months as it develops. After this period, the more mature possum will shift to its mother’s back where it will stay for 2 months. Males do not play a role in the rearing of offsprings.
After seven months of dependency, the young possum can now live independently and will have matured fully by the tenth month. Females start breeding as early as twelve months while males will stay up to 2 years before reaching sexual maturity.
(Source and Image source: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/animals/TheBrush-tailedPossum.htm)
How do you prevent a possum infestation?
There’re several things you can do to discourage possums from moving into your property. These are:
- Covering openings that possums can use to gain access to your house. You can use wire mesh for large holes and slotted vent covers for ventilation holes.
- Trim tree branches to at least 50ft from your homes roof as possums can use the overhanging branches to access your roof – they’re pretty good climbers.
- Install grid screens or any other suitable barrier to protect your low decks from possums.
- Cover your outdoor bins. Leaving your outdoor bins uncovered will attract possums and other wild animals due to the presence of food.
- Clean up food leftovers on your property. Leftovers from barbecues should be cleared immediately to avoid attracting wild animals including possums.
How do you control possums?
If possums have already found their way into your home or are a persistent problem on your property, there’re several control methods that you can use to get rid of them. These include:
1. Traps. Using live traps to capture troublesome possums is an easy, humane and effective method of possum control. Traps can be placed along obvious travel paths in the garden, near burrows, and any other areas where the possum might be hiding.
The best bait to use for possum traps is fish flavoured cat food, but this will also attract cats. If there’re lots of cats in your neighbourhood, you can use other viable alternatives including, raw chicken eggs, bread with jam and peanut butter spreads, melon, overripe bananas or grapes.
Remember to check your trap daily so that you can relocate and release the animal back to the wild as soon as possible before it suffers any harm.
2. Motion sensor outdoor lights. Possums are generally nocturnal which means that they prefer coming out at night. Motion activated spotlights can help drive away possums at night.
3. Electronic repellers. These use a combination of ultrasonic sound and a powerful strobe light to scare away any intruding possums. The high-frequency sound (15-25kHz) produced is inaudible to humans and therefore not disruptive. This type of devices are usually motion activated with an effective range of about 360m2. They’re weather resistant too which makes them ideal for outdoor use.
Why poisoning is not an ideal possum control solution
Using poison bait to get rid of possums is quite a harmful way of controlling possums. This is because the control method is non-specific and will harm other untargeted animals. The carcasses might also be fed on by other wildlife which will effectively transfer the poison to their system.
Poisoning might seem like a good permanent solution, but at closer scrutiny proves to be more harmful than it is useful. It’s also illegal, so don’t do it.
For effective possum control at home, use humane and non-lethal possum control solutions to get rid of these stubborn pests.