This cute furry creature is a Brushtail Possum. It’s a nocturnal animal native to Australia, is part of the marsupial family, and is the second largest of the possums. There are four colour variations of their thick woolly coat – silver/grey, brown, black and gold. Its size varies from 32cm to 58cm in the body plus a tail of up to 40cm in length. Males are bigger than females and the males usually have a red tinge to their coat near their shoulders. The females have a pouch that has a forward opening. These possums have a scent gland on their chest that they use to mark their territory and it commonly stains their fur a reddish colour.
The Brushtail Possum is commonly seen in the suburbs as it easily adapts to human settlements, and it can be found all over Australia, sleeping during the day in hollow logs, tree branches, or any dark area, include house roofs, and emerges on dusk to forage for food.
These possums prefer eating eucalypt leaves but will also eat flowers (including your precious rose blooms in your garden!) fruit and seeds. They can also eat bird eggs and small vertebrates. Our veranda seems to be a common gathering place for possums and we usually leave out a bit of a fruit platter for them to eat as they go on their nightly travels. I have found that each possum has a preference for different types of food, they don’t all want to eat the same thing. The favourite foods seem to be bananas, sultanas, carrots, unsalted peanuts, and mangoes.
Brushtail Possums can be very noisy at night. They have a range of vocal sounds from a hiss, to a click, to a cough and even ear piercing screeching. And the noise they make when they’re telling another possum to get out of their territory is quite unusual and will have you scratching your head, wondering who is trying to start a machine in the dead of the night. I haven’t been able to record this for myself as yet, but you can see what it sounds like in this person’s video from You Tube –
The possums also fight over food, females and territory, and chase one another along our veranda screaming and thumping as they go, sounding just like a herd of elephants running alongside the house, leaving tufts of fur in their wake. It’s a common occurrence to be woken up a few times during the night from all the rowdy goings-on.
Baby possums are the cutest! We have been very fortunate in that we have seen a few babies over the last few years. We have gained the trust of a few female possums over time and when they come to visit for food, we can see the pouch getting bigger and hanging lower and lower until one night, a little head pops out to look at the world. Not long after, the little one gets out of the pouch when it’s safe and climbs on the mother’s back and goes for a ride, checking out the sights, smells and sounds of the new world. After awhile, the baby is too big for the pouch and for being carried on mum’s back so the baby keeps alongside their mother learning how to survive until he/she is old enough to go it alone. Here’s a video I took of a mother with a baby in August last year –
Here are a few recent photos I took the other night of a possum climbing up a small tree next to our veranda.