Seeing as it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday here in Australia, I thought I would introduce you to my favourite brushtail possum who visits us on a regular basis. I call her Mummy because she was the first possum with a joey I ever saw.
Below is one of my first photos of a brushtail possum and is also my first photo of Mummy possum. It was taken back in September 2011. It’s not a very good photo as it was taken at night through a glass sliding door. We had been getting quite a few possums passing through at that time and had started to leave a bit of fruit and jam out for them. Then one night we saw this female possum with a joey.
Here is Mummy possum in September 2012 with another joey.
Here’s Mummy with another joey in September 2015.
And here’s Mummy in September 2016 with another joey.
Here’s a more recent picture of her. This was in February 2017 and you can just see there is a small joey in her pouch.
This is Mummy and her joey about month later. The joey has grown a bit more and is a backrider.
These two are quite fun to watch. Mummy doesn’t like to share her food and it’s funny to see the young one trying to grab a bit to eat.
Here they are visiting on a rainy night.
Mummy is such a fantastic mother, she really knows how to raise her joeys well. She must be popular with the boys too, because she is usually seen with a joey of varying ages and seems to have more joeys than other possums.
You’re probably wondering how I can be sure it’s the same possum visiting all these years. Easy – she’s the only possum that walks straight up to me without fear, and also the only possum who can sometimes be seen standing up on her hind legs looking in the glass sliding door waiting to be noticed and given something to eat! I can also tell from looking at her face. Each possum is individual, and if you make the effort to spend time observing them, it becomes quite easy after awhile to tell them all apart. And if you look closely at Mummy’s left ear, you’ll notice a tell tale giveaway …. (Click on the images below to see a bigger photo for more detail.)
Since we first saw Mummy in 2011 and she already had a joey at that time, she would have had to have been at least a year old then in order to have young. So, as it’s now 2017, she has to be at least 7 years old. Possums can live up to 13 years in the wild but the average life expectancy is much lower at 6 years, especially for males. I think Mummy has done quite well surviving this long. So far, she has managed to avoid the threats of owls, foxes, snakes, dogs, cats, disease, urban sprawl and even cars.
At the moment Mummy has some missing patches of fur on her hind quarters. I’d say these are from being in a fight protecting her joey and/or home. It looks worse than what it actually is, and the fur is starting to grow back now since this photo was taken about a month ago.
Below is a recent video of me patting Mummy possum. I have been able to do this quite a lot, but I only do it when she’s calm and it’s quiet outside, and when she’s eating. As you will see, by the end of the video, it’s like patting your cat! I don’t know if Mummy actually enjoys being patted, or if she just tolerates it, but in any case, she is free to move away and leave whenever she wants.
I have only been able to pat Mummy like this because we have known each other for around 6 years and we have developed a bond of trust. This sort of thing doesn’t happen very often, and it makes my day when Mummy arrives and accepts a piece of food from me in return for a little pat. And sometimes she turns up and just takes the food and runs off, obviously not in a talking mood.
I don’t recommend you go up to the first possum you see and try to touch it. They are wild animals and can be unpredictable. They can easily be frightened and may attack you, and with their long sharp claws and big teeth, you certainly don’t want that to happen!
Although we have a few possum boxes on our property, Mummy doesn’t seem to stay at our place very often, she just visits for treats. It seems that she lives next door in the neighbour’s shed and also accepts food from the man who lives there! I have also seen her dashing across our driveway at night to and from his house, often with a joey running after her trying to keep up!
Do you have any special relationships with a wild bird or animal that visits your place?