Author: Dennis Murphy  

Common Bushtail Possum

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Possums are small marsupials with brown or grey fur, ranging in size and weight from the length of a finger or 170 grams (pygmy possums and wrist-winged gliders) to the length of 120 cm or 14.5 kilos (brushtails and ringtails).  All possums are nocturnal and omnivorous, hiding in a nest in a hollow tree during the day and coming out during the night to forage for food. 

The two most common species of possums, the Common Brushtail and Common Ringtail are also among the largest.

Possums are commonly found in suburban areas, where they are often considered pests owing to their habit of eating fruit, vegetables, flowers and tender young shoots from gardens and nesting in roofs.  The loud hissing, crackling territorial call of the male Common Brushtail may also be a problem for suburban residents.  Natural deterrents which play upon the possums’s acute sense of smell are often employed to discourage them.  These include close of garlic, camphor or naphthalene.  As a native species in Australia, possums are protected by Australian regulations, even when the reside in urban neighbourhoods, and cannot be baited.  They cannot be killed as pests and if captured, the regulations stipulate that they must be released within a small radius of that locality since they are territorial creatures.  Preventative measures such as blocking off their access to the roof spaces or building a possum nesting box for an alternative home are instead recommended.

Common Ringtail Possum

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Possum Repellents

Charlie Carp® (S) (fish-based fertiliser): Spray/paint on plant stems or other parts to be protected.

Skunk-off® (S) (proprietary repellent product): Follow label instructions.

Phenyle® (S) (hospital strength antiseptic with strong smell): Spray on plant stems to stop possums climbing.

Tea-based deterrent (T): Boil 2 litres of water; add 4 heaped tablespoons of Lapsang Souchong tea; leave to cool, strain off liquid and apply from plastic spray bottle directly onto affected plants. Reapply every two weeks and always after rain. Make a fresh brew every time.
Indonesian fish sauce (T): Place one tablespoon of sauce in one litre of water and spray on foliage.

Garlic spray (S, T): Place two tablespoons freshly crushed garlic (a variation is to add two tablespoons of freshly crushed hot chilli) in one litre of hot water. Allow to stand overnight. Strain. Spray on foliage.

White King® (S): (household bleach): Apply full strength as spray.

Camphor (S) (household insecticidal fumigant): Crumble one 6.25 gram block and mix with enough Vaseline® to make paste that can be applied to fruit or stems.

Naphthalene flakes (S) (household insecticidal fumigant): Place 50 gram in pouch made from foot of panty hose and hang in tree or bush.

Quassia chips (T) (Chips of bark from a South American tree): Add 100 g chips to 2 litres water and heat for one hour before straining. Add one tablespoon detergent. Dilute at rate of 1 part of solution to four parts water and apply as a spray.

Blood & Bone (S) (Animal-derived fertiliser): Sprinkle around the base of plants to be protected.

D-ter® (S, T) (proprietary repellent product): Follow label instructions.

Keep Off® (S) (proprietary repellent product): Follow label instructions.

Stay Off® (S) (proprietary repellent product): Follow label instructions.

Scat® (S) (proprietary repellent product): Follow label instructions.

Tabasco Sauce® (T): Use full strength as paint or spray.

WR1 (F) This is a tactile repellent developed at the DSE/DPI Keith Turnbull Institute. WR1 is a two-part product comprising a sticker and grit that adheres to the sticker. Field testing has shown that this product can repel wallabies and may repel possums. Currently the product is awaiting registration and commercial availability may be some way off.

All of these products except for WR1 may be purchased either from your local supermarket or from a plant nursery.