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Wildlife Resources

Living with Brushtail Possums
by Linda Dennis and Parks and Wildlife  Service, Tasmania

Brushtail Possum at Fourth Crossing

Brushtail Possum and joey, Fourth Crossing

Possum Box Design, by Parks and Wildlife Service, Tasmania

This type of nestbox is cheap to make. It is simply two
wired pot plant holders  tied together with a hole cut in both
ends (the second for an escape hole).  However, it is not waterproof and will need to be placed under shelter.

Zen, raised and released at Fourth Crossing

Pickles, release a Fourth Crossing
The  lively Brushtail Possum is one of Australia's most familiar marsupials, largely  because they are highly adaptable to a wide range of natural and human environments.  

Their  natural and preferred habitat is forest, where they nest in tree hollows, however  they will also cohabit with humans in cities and towns where they seek shelter,  warmth and protection in the dark recesses of buildings.

A  favoured spot is between the ceiling and the roof and this can be a problem to  some people.

Keep reading to find out what you can do to make living with possums easier…...

Possums  in your home.

Is that noise in the ceiling a Brushtail Possum?

Many  times, the intruder turns out to be an introduced rat or mouse, which are declared  pests. Sometimes both types of animals are involved and separate action is required.  

The  following signs might help: Rats and mice make scratching, chewing and skittering  noises. They have distinctive droppings; do not defecate where they are nesting  and may chew electrical wiring. Rats also collect seeds and grasses.

Brushtails  do not. They make loud heavy, thumping sounds when walking, and distinctive guttural  growls, screeches, hisses and coughs when disturbed.

You can find out for sure by looking inside the ceiling with a flashlight during the day or observe your house just on dark when the possum emerges to feed.

Possum  Proofing.

Catching and removing the animal never works - not because the Brushtail finds  its way back but because it is replaced by another from nearby. We could go on  removing them forever!

Brushtails are strongly attached to their homesites and those which have been  removed usually face a slow death, either because the release area is unsuitable  or it is occupied by another Brushtail which will defend its territory vigorously.  

Conflict  for food and shelter usually means that the released possum dies. Whilst people  object to Brushtails living in ceilings or under floors, most wish them no harm.  Since possums' chances of survival are best in their own territory, the following  strategy is suggested:

•  Find where the Brushtail is getting in and out. More than one place may be involved.

 • Make the necessary repairs to prevent entry. This can be done on a fine night  between dusk and 10 pm when the Brushtail Possum is outside feeding. On wet and  windy nights, a Brushtail may leave later. Repairs need to be sound as Brushtails  are quite strong and will work hard to re-enter their shelter site. They can squeeze  through a 9 centimetre gap and are able to move loose tiles aside! If the Brushtail  has been trapped inside, its noisy attempts to escape will alert you.

 • Alternatively, repairs can be done during the day. The Brushtail(s) must then  be trapped inside the ceiling. Use sliced apple with a dash of vanilla as bait.  Don't forget to gain permission from your local National Parks Ranger first.

 • Liberally splash the old entry areas with a strong smelling substance such as  disinfectant, camphor or naphthalene to destroy the scent, otherwise the possum  will try and re-enter.

 • If you do not hear the Brushtail for a few nights it has probably found a new  home.

 • Brushtails can be encouraged to stay in your yard by providing a nesting box,  either a hollow log blocked at one end or a home-made nest (see diagram). It should  be waterproof and placed four to five metres above the ground.

Possums  on the Farm and in the Garden.

Wildlife experts encourage people to try preventative methods before more drastic  methods of Brushtail Possum removal is allowed. If these methods fail, and serious  economic damage is occurring, please contact your local wildlife organisation  or National Parks office for help.

Preventative  Planting.

If planning a garden, try and select plant species which are unpalatable to Brushtails  such as prickly and spiny grevilleas and hakeas; tough and woody banksias and  melaleucas (teatree) and plants with smelly foliage such as chrysanthemums, mint  bushes, geraniums and daisies.
Roses  and fruit trees can be ruined unless protected. Trees can be protected by attaching  a broad 40 cm band of metal around the trunk, 50 cm above the ground. Make sure  that the Brushtail cannot gain access from nearby trees!

Orphaned  or Injured Brushtail Possums.

Orphaned or injured Brushtail Possums, known as joeys, are often found. For any  assistance with an orphaned joey please contact your local wildlife organisation,  individual carer or vet. For short term care information visit Short  Term Care for Brushtail Possums, and for Sonya Stanvic's great care guide visit Possums, Juvenile to Adult where you can  download the guide free of charge.


There are a range of chemical repellents which can be applied to individual trees  or shrubs for temporary protection against Brushtail and other possums. They are  applied to the bark or foliage depending on the type of repellent used. It must  be remembered that repellents give only short-term protection and give no protection  to new growth. Repellents will never work on plants that are very attractive to  animals.
The most common repellents are:

 • Egg powder. Mix 200 g dried egg powder per litre of water with wetting agent  and spray plants. This treatment is more effective than most but may cause leaf  death if the plants are suffering from water stress.
• Blood and bone. Place it at the base of plants. This substancemay attract dogs to the area because they like to eat the blood and bone.
 • Mutton fat and kerosene. Mix nine parts melted fat with one part kerosene and  leave to cool. The mixture is wiped lightly onto the stem and lower branches.  Avoid the leaves as this treatment may cause browning on some species.

 • Quassia chips extracts. Add 100 g of chips to 400 ml boiling water. Leave to  stand for five minutes then add one litre of cold water and leave chips soaking  for 24 hours. Strain and add wetting agent (ie: detergent) which will help the  mixture stick to the plant. Spray mixture onto plants.

The two most effective repellents available are egg powder and mutton fat mixed  with kerosene even though both can cause some damage to the plants.

Handle With Care.

Remember, Brushtail Possums are wild animals and though they look cuddly they  can bite and scratch severely, especially when injured or afraid. Wear protective  gloves or restrain the possum in a blanket or towel if you need to handle it.

Possum  Conservation.

Conservation is important even for common animals like the Brushtail possum. You  can help by retaining areas of natural bush on your land and by learning to live  with these animals.

This  information has been used
with kind permission from the
Parks and Wildlife  Service, Tasmania

 web site
Living with Brushtail Possums
The PDF file is 367kb
Fourth Crossing Wildlife
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