Trapping and relocation of problem possums was standard practice for Melbourne residents for many years and was permitted by the state wildlife authority.
However, relocation of possums often meant relocation of the problem.
For example, many possums were left in the Royal Botanic Gardens and this led to increased browsing of plants and the need to take action to reduce possum numbers.
Furthermore, removal of possums can just make room for another possum to move in at the original location.
Out of concern that relocated possums may suffer, Deakin University was asked to study the fate of relocated common brushtail possums.
The Deakin University study revealed that most relocated common brushtail possums die in stressful circumstances soon after release.
Access the findings from the possum relocation study.
Alternative control options
The presence of possums in roofs and gardens can create a range of problems. A number of control options may be considered to help address these issues.
Possums on roofs
To effectively stop possums getting onto your roof, watch for possums after dark and block off their access points.
- Depending on the access point the possums are using, some potential solutions include:
- Make a one-way flap out of metal or perspex with a hinge at the top. Hinge the flap to allow possums out but not in. Cover the flap surrounds in metal to prevent possum claws from gripping.
- Prune all branches that lead to the roof. Leave a gap of at least 1.5 metres around the roof.
- Build a 30 centimetre floppy fence on top of your existing paling fence.
- Place collars around the trunks of trees that give access to the roof. Use 60 centimetres wide sheet metal or perspex and fit 60 centimetres above the ground.
- Contact your electricity or telecommunications companies for advice on possum proofing transmission cables.
Possums in gardens
If possums are damaging ornamental plants or fruit in your garden you can:
- Build a floppy fence around the garden. Use 80 centimetre wide, heavily galvanised chicken wire, bury the bottom 20 centimetres into the ground and support the remainder on vertical lengths of flexible, high-tensile fencing wire. Bend the wire to curve the upper section outwards. When the possum attempts to climb the fence it will bend over and then spring back.
- Use collars to protect fruit trees.
- Repellents are an option, but tests have shown none of 15 common repellent compounds effectively prevented possums damaging ornamental trees or fruit.
The trapping of common brushtail possums living in buildings is permitted 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.
When trapped, common brushtail possums must be released on the same property within 50 metres of the capture site.
Licensed wildlife controllers are also authorised to trap possums but they will not relocate them to another site.
Possum traps are available for loan or hire from some local councils.
Trapping is a highly stressful experience for possums.
The recommended possum trap type is a wire mesh box trap with mesh less than 19 millimetres square.
If a trap with larger mesh is used possums can seriously damage their noses pushing them through the mesh.
Traps must be set in a stable level position protected from dogs, cats, wind, rain and direct sun. All traps are to be checked no more than two hours after sunrise.
Trapped possums must be kept in the trap in a quiet place, covered with a cloth or bag.
Possums must be released at sunset on the day of capture. Releasing possums during the day increases their stress and puts them at risk of being attacked and injured.
Possum nest box suppliers
Nest boxes can be installed in gardens as an alternative den site for possums.
Possums are territorial so if one adopts the nest box it is likely to keep others away from your roof and garden.
Nest boxes are commercially available or easily made from rough sawn timber. Nest boxes should be 19–25 millimetres thick to provide insulation.
Install the box in a stable upright position at least three metres above the ground.
Do not use treated timber, toxic paints, chipboard or smelly glues. Make sure there are no sharp edges or protruding nails and screws.
Check the nest box regularly and remove any nesting materials left by introduced birds such as mynas, sparrows or starlings.
Nest boxes for possums can be obtained from the following suppliers:
Bird Observers Club of Australia: (03) 9877 5342
Peter the Possum Man: (03) 9646 4222
Nigel's Animal Rescue: 0427 533 083; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Noel Pettit: (03) 9584 5996; email: email@example.com
Keelbundora Indigenous Nursery: (03) 9479 2871
EnvirOnest: (03) 5439 5710.