One of the things my dog, Milly, likes about this new house is the possum.
Not that she loves possums — quite the contrary — she considers them her enemy. And who doesn’t like to have an enemy that you can bark at from a distance but never have to actually confront? It’s really a “play-enemy” of the sort we used to have as kids.
Australian possums are nothing like American possums — they’re small and fluffy and cute and shy. And they don’t have lots of babies — generally just one. Like kangaroos, the babies are called joeys, and are kept in a pouch until they’re old enough to ride on their mother’s back.
I said they’re shy, and that’s true — they only come out after dark, and though plenty of them live in the city, near parks or in leafy suburban areas, most people rarely see them. They do, however see the evidence that there is a possum visiting, because possums love fruits and flowers.
The first evidence I saw that we had a visiting possum was when the lemons on my tree had their peel eaten off. Just the peel, not the fruit. See the photo on the left. The lemons were still hanging on the tree, the entire peel carefully nibbled off.
And the first gorgeous flower of the wisteria disappeared overnight. I was glad I’d taken a photo of it (see below right) because otherwise there was no evidence that the vine had begun to flower.
Possums are protected in Australia — it’s illegal to harm them or keep them. (In NZ it’s a different story, as possums are an introduced species there and have become a pest to the NZ indigenous creatures, so NZers kill possums and use their fur, generally mixed with wool, to make soft, warm clothing.) But here they’re protected.
They’re generally very shy, but when cornered or threatened or their babies threatened, they can be quite fierce and make this very scary noise — and that’s what sets Milly off.
And now, every evening after dark, there’s a small black dog sitting motionless in the back yard, gazing up into the trees at the back, waiting for the enemy to emerge . . . (Black dogs don’t photograph too well in the dark, so you’ll just have to imagine the sight.)
If there’s a frenzied eruption of barking, I know the possum is there and sometimes I hear the possum growling back. (Don’t worry, I always bring the dog in before 9pm so she doesn’t disturb the neighbours.)
There’s a short video here of a possum in a suburban back yard tree and you can really hear the scary sound it can make. Normally though, they’re utterly silent..
And here’s a video of a baby possum, looking for its mum.
Do you get wildlife visiting?