Living with Possums in Victoria - Questions and Answers
Possums and the lawQ. Are possums protected?
A. All possums are protected in Victoria under the provisions of the Wildlife Act 1975.
Q. How has the law changed?
A. A Governor in Council Order made on 8 July 2003 was published in Government Gazette G28, pages 1766-1767 on 10 July 2003. This Order permits the trapping of Common Brushtail Possums living in buildings for the purpose of releasing them on the same property or taking them to a registered vet for euthanasia. Relocation of possums is prohibited. Common Ringtail Possums remain fully protected and may not be trapped.
The Order also permits the trapping of Common Brushtail Possums living in municipal parks and municipal gardens, as part of a possum management plan that includes non-lethal measures, and only by holders of a Commercial Wildlife (Wildlife Controller) Licence Type 1 endorsed for taking possums.
Q. Can I destroy Common Brushtail Possums myself?
A. No. Only a registered veterinarian can legally euthanase Common Brushtail Possums. All other possums, including the Common Ringtail Possum, remain fully protected in Victoria and must not be euthanased or relocated.
Q. Why are possums protected at all?
A. Possums are native wildlife. All native wildlife is protected under the Wildlife Act 1975. (For the purposes of the Wildlife Act, native wildlife includes birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians that occur naturally in Australia). This protection follows community expectations that place the responsibility on all of us to look after our native wildlife.
Q. How much do vets charge to euthanase Common Brushtail Possums?
A. Charges will vary from vet to vet. Many vets will charge around $20.00 to $30.00.
Q. Why should I have to pay to have Common Brushtail Possums destroyed?
A. We do not recommend that you have Common Brushtail Possums destroyed. That is your choice. We encourage people to learn to live with possums, since they are part of our urban environment. (see also Living with Possums).
Q. Why can't I keep Common Brushtail Possums as pets if I can have them destroyed?
A. As a general principle, removal of native wildlife from the wild into captivity is prohibited because it is considered unethical to take a wild animal and place it in captivity. In addition, some species are in small numbers and removal of individuals of these species could have an adverse impact on the survival of populations of that species in the wild. However, you can purchase captive-bred possums to keep as pets, however you must first apply for, or already have, a Private Wildlife Licence.
Trapping possumsQ. Where can I get possum traps?
A. Some local councils loan or hire possum or cat traps. You may also find possum trap hire under Pest Control in the Yellow Pages. Alternatively, contact the DEPI Customer Service Centre on 136 186 or email: email@example.com for a list of licensed possum controllers. If you intend to trap the possum yourself it is important that you read the rules relating to trapping possums.
Q. Where can I get possum nest boxes?
A. Instructions for making your own possum nest box can be obtained from the DEPI Customer Service Centre on 136 186 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or in the Nest Box Note. Nest boxes can also be obtained from the following organisations and businesses.
Q. How can I contact licensed possum controllers?
A. A list of licensed possum controllers is available from the DEPI Customer Service Centre on 136 186 or email: email@example.com. Alternatively, you may find them listed under Pest Control in the Yellow Pages.
Q. Can I remove possums from my roof when they're breeding?
A. Yes. The mother will either have her young in her pouch or on her back. It will not be left behind. Be aware that there may be more than one adult possum in your roof.
Q. Possums are destroying my garden - can I trap them?
A. The law only allows the trapping of Common Brushtail Possums that are living in buildings. There is advice in the booklet Living with Possums about dealing with problems of possums damaging plants.
Q. Where is the best place to put the trap?
A. In a secure position on the roof or inside the roof space but remember, the law only permits the trapping of Common Brushtail Possums that are living in buildings.
All traps must be located in an area that is protected from rain or wind, direct sunlight and domestic animals at all times.
Q. What bait should I use in the trap?
A. A quarter of an apple works well. You could also use bread spread with peanut butter.
Q. What should I do if I trap a Common Ringtail Possum instead of a Common Brushtail Possum?
A. Common Ringtail Possums must be released after sunset on the day of capture as near as practicable to the capture site, on the same property.
Q. How do I tell the difference between a Common Brushtail Possum and a Common Ringtail Possum?
A. Common Brushtail Possums have a black, bushy tail, while Common Ringtail Possums have a tail that has short fur and a white tip. Occasionally, a Common Brushtail Possum has a white tipped tail, but its fur is long. (See also About possums in Victoria for more information and photos of these possums).
Excluding possumsQ. How can I exclude possums from my house?
A. You will need to locate the entry point or points, then make and install a one-way flap that will allow possums out, but not back. This flap can be made from metal or perspex, hinged at the top.
Q. Is it too cold to exclude possums in winter?
A. No. As long as the possums have an alternative nest site, such as a nest box in a tree or a natural tree hollow, this is not a problem. (See also nest box suppliers).
Q. If I exclude a mother possum, could its baby be left in the nest?
A. No, the baby will be either in the mother's pouch or on her back. It is possible that there is more than one adult possum in the roof. If you use a one-way flap, this will not be a problem.
Q. Why is there always another possum to replace one I take away?
A. In any healthy possum population, there are young animals looking for a territory in which to establish themselves, after being forced out of their mother's territory.
Q. What should I feed possums?
A. Possums should not be fed. Feeding possums or other wildlife can lead to dietary imbalance, dependence on the food source, artificially high densities of possums, attraction of rats and pest birds and attraction of predators. When densities become artificially high this may cause fighting and in such cases many injuries (presumably caused by fighting) have been found on possums. Feeding possums will not necessarily stop them from eating your garden plants.
Q. When do possums breed and how many young do they have?
A. Common Brushtail Possums usually have a single young in spring, although some are born in autumn. The baby spends six months in the mother's pouch, then one or two months being carried on her back, until it is weaned. Common Ringtail Possums have from one to three young, usually two, born in autumn or winter. Gestation period for the Common Brushtail Possum is 16-18 days and is similar in the Common Ringtail Possum.
Possum problemsQ. I live in a block of flats. We have possums in the roof There are no trees on the property, but I don't want to destroy the possums. What should I do?
A. It is important that possum access to the roof space is blocked. If you install a one-way flap that allows possums to leave but not return, then the possums will have to find alternative accommodation elsewhere in their territory.
Q. Possums leave their droppings on my car/driveway each night - how can I solve this problem?
A. Prune overhanging branches, to prevent the possums from being over the driveway or car, park the car elsewhere, or put up a carport.
Q. I want to get rid of possums from my yard because they make my dog bark all night.
A. There are floppy fence designs to exclude possums in the Living with Possums booklet. If your dog barks at possums, it needs to be trained not to. See your vet about dog training techniques.
Q. How can I stop possums getting into my roses/fruit trees/etc
A. Place collars around tree trunks. Isolate trees from each other by pruning branches. Install floppy fences to exclude possums or erect netting over the plants needing protection.
Q. Are there repellents/deterrents available to stop possums eating my plants?
A. We know of no repellents or deterrents that have been properly evaluated and demonstrated to be effective. However, some repellents may work under some situations.
Q. Where should I take injured possums?
A. Injured possums should be taken to a vet or to a wildlife shelter. Contact the DEPI Customer Service Centre on 136 186 for wildlife shelter contact numbers.
Q. How do I know where possums are getting into my roof?
A. One way is to watch at dusk or soon after to see where the possum emerges. Alternatively, inspect the roof and eaves carefully for scratches, staining or hairs left where the possum enters the roof space.
Q. I have blocked all the holes I could find, but they are still getting in.
A. There must be other openings, possibly at ground level. Watch at dusk or soon after to see if you can see the possum emerging. Possums can lift tiles to enter roofs. In this case, it is not easy to see where they are getting in. A solution is to have the tiles re-tied.
Q. How will the possum know where a nest box is?
A. Possums investigate objects in their territory. The nest box will be found quite readily.
Q. Do Common Ringtail Possums and Common Brushtail Possums require different boxes?
A. No. A nest box suitable for Common Brushtail Possums may also be used by Common Ringtail Possums, although Common Ringtail Possums usually construct their own nest of twigs and leaves in dense foliage of a tree or shrub.
Q. How do I know that the noises in my roof are being made by possums?
A. Possums make heavy thumping noises in the roof, and loud calls. Rats are common in roofs, and they make light scampering noises. Rats also frequently gnaw rapidly on timber or other materials.
Possum populationsQ. Possums are in plague proportions and we need to reduce their population.
A. Possum populations increase to a level determined by the resources in their habitat. If there are plenty of nesting sites and nutritious food, then an area will support more possums than another area with fewer nesting sites or less nutritious food. Removing possums without changing the other factors that permit high numbers to build up, allows populations to return quickly to the same numbers. The presence of predators such as owls may also affect the numbers of possums in a particular area.
Q. I have always taken possums away and they always come back - I don't believe that most relocated possums die.
A. A study on the fate of relocated Common Brushtail Possums by Deakin University and studies by Latrobe University and the University of New South Wales on Common Ringtail Possums showed that the overwhelming majority of relocated possums die, often from predation. In addition, removal of a possum creates a vacant territory that is soon filled by another animal. This could explain why you think they always return.
Q. I have always taken possums away - what is wrong with that?
A. Relocation of possums to another area almost invariably results in their death in stressful circumstances. It is not humane. Simply removing a possum seldom solves a problem, since another one usually replaces it in a short time, and causes the same problem. Relocation of possums is also illegal, and carries a fine of up to $5,000.
Q. Possums belong in the bush, not the suburbs.
A. Possums are a part of suburban living. They reach higher numbers in the suburbs than in the bush because suburban habitats provide a wide range of highly nutritious plant foods and abundant nesting sites in the roofs of buildings. Possums are the only marsupials that have been able to adapt to suburban living and are a great example of Australia's unique wildlife. Possums have managed to survive in areas that were bush, and have now been taken over by humans.
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