Strange Australian Back Garden Beastie Sound Explained

Remember this?

With extraordinary timing, a reader has posted a comment on a previous post. Why is the timing significant? First we need to go back in time about five or six months ……..

I am sitting in my living area, or lounge as I used to call it, it is a late at night and everyone else is asleep. I am chilling out watching drivel TV, I am in my favourite armchair and my head is probably tilting somewhat to the left. My jaw is relaxed and my mouth may be slightly open. But that’s not important right now. Let’s just say I am relaxing.

Out of the corner of my eye I see something move. I look over at the window. And there it is. A cat? I look at him. He looks at me. Time freezes momentarily. To break the ice, I wave. With that, the cat? turns and runs.

I don’t know if you’d have noticed, but when a cat runs, you just know it is a cat. Cats glide. Cats move in only the way cats can. And whatever had just run off, wasn’t a cat. All I had seen was its white furry head with a black patch across his face and pointy sticking out ears. I had no idea what it was. So I went to grab my “Wildlife of Greater Brisbane’ book to find out.

Now, back to that extraordinary timing. As you know I am working through a category called “Australia’s Bad Things”. It may surprise you to know that I plan ahead wherever I can. So I have a list of intruders that have trespassed on my land or entered my house. This list is already arranged in the order in which I want to blog them. Starting with the cutest and working up to the nastiest, scariest and deadliest.

Before I had the chance to open that list to see which intruder I was due to write about today, I received an e-mail notification that a comment had been added to my blog called “Strange Australian Back Garden Beastie Sounds” – where I had posted the video now at the top of this page.

I said I’d like to hear from anyone who recognises the sound. And this was the message I received from Christine this morning…..

Comment:
That sound is coming from a brush tail possum. They make that noise when there is another possum around, its a warning sound made to another possum invading his territory.  Sometimes they fight and the sound get worse.

Comment:
Oh and btw its not the sound of dragging its the possums growl 🙂

And you guessed it! When I looked to see which intruder I was going to be talking about today, the next on the list was “possum”.

Cute & Cuddly Possum

Cute & Cuddly Possum

Image Courtesy of VaguelyArtistic

Cute huh? Possums are marsupials and as Christine pointed out, they are very territorial. They feed on leaves, buds, flowers and fruits and they are the size of a cat. They are also, I believe, a protected species. It is illegal to remove one from your premises. So I guess that makes my possum neither an intruder or a trespasser. It seems he just “lives here too”.

There’s no point in evicting him anyway, he is the one that stops other possums moving in. I know, I heard it. And Christine kindly explained it.

Not So Cute

Not So Cute

Image Courtesy of AndrewKantor

And this is what they look like when they are cornered by a dog. Still cute? Or an Australian Bad Thing?

Update:

As several people have pointed out, neither of these are native Australian possums. They are both American opossums.

So I brushed myself down, took it on the chin and simply wrote another post. Check it out here…

Possums and Opossums: Australia and America. All Explained.

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{ 49 comments… add one }
  • sleepingsoundly November 28, 2017, 2:53 pm | Link

    Thank goodness for this blog! Last night at around midnight to 1AM I started hearing this noise. I had my window open so it was extremely loud – so loud that it actually woke me up. I was actually having a scary dream and so I was quite terrified when I woke up to this as I had no clue what it was. In my disoriented state a few different things were running through my mind – an engine trying and failing to start, a chainsaw, a MURDERER LURKING OUTSIDE MY WINDOW. After a while it completely stopped and I was brave enough to reach for my phone to try and search for a more realistic explanation for the noise, which is when I came across this post. So I have to thank you for putting my mind at ease and letting me go back to sleep!

    • BobinOz November 29, 2017, 5:34 pm | Link

      Yes, it can be a very scary noise and it can sound quite loud in the middle of the night. You are not the first to have a bunch of terrifying thoughts flood through your mind, I know of a girl who when she heard it at first thought it might be a pervert, then a peeping Tom, then she considered a rapist before finally progressing onto a potential murderer.

      Thankfully, it’s just a possum 🙂

      Glad to have helped you out, and pleased that you found my site so quickly, but especially happy that you ended up sleepingsoundly.

  • Melissa August 17, 2017, 12:06 pm | Link

    This is the exact noise which woke us all at midnight last night and went on and on. The kids were petrified ! I googled “chocolate wheel animal noise” but only got kids toys. Thanks for the info. And if anyone else googles chocolate wheel animal noise hopefully they’ll find this post ! (It’s a possum). I ended up indiscriminately hosing the tree and it went away.

    • BobinOz August 18, 2017, 12:22 am | Link

      Well, I would think anybody who does decide to search Google for “chocolate wheel animal noise” will now find this website, because I can’t imagine there is another website in the whole of this interweb thing that could possibly contain those four words consecutively.

      Thanks to you, my website now does 🙂 I’m looking forward to a surge in traffic.

      I am curious though, how did you come up with “chocolate wheel animal noise” after hearing this sound? Surely the obvious thing to search for is “strange Australian back garden beastie sound?” Or maybe that’s just me.

      Now, what’s this about hosing a possum at midnight? What’s wrong with giving the poor thing a bowl of warm milk? That’ll stop it growling.

      Anyway, hope the kids are okay now, show them some pictures of possums, they will want to keep them as pets I’m sure.

      • Jane August 18, 2017, 8:19 am | Link

        I spent a good 24 hours wondering about the phrase ‘chocolate wheel’ and once it clicked I realised it was perfect.

        • BobinOz August 20, 2017, 7:46 pm | Link

          Well, if anyone else hears this strange sound at night and decides that the best thing to search for is “chocolate wheel animal noise”, then they will find this website straight away now and it’s all thanks to you.

          What are the chances though? 🙂

  • Nic June 4, 2017, 8:08 pm | Link

    Thank you so much for this article, video and research!!!
    I threw a few words into my search engine trying to describe the low breathy growl sound and you’ve clarified all my fears 🙂

    • BobinOz June 5, 2017, 8:00 pm | Link

      Glad to have helped. Yes, the sound can be quite disturbing, a young female friend of mine heard it late at night some time ago as she was trying to get to sleep and thought she had a pervert prowling around in the garden.

      Possums provide a much more comforting answer 🙂

  • Jane January 23, 2017, 12:59 am | Link

    Why don’t you change the pictures to pictures of brush tail possums?

    • BobinOz January 23, 2017, 6:56 pm | Link

      That would have been way too easy 🙂

      The real reason though, is that when I looked into it, I was fascinated to discover that both Australia and the US had possums, but actually, they were not the same animals. So rather than just change the picture and pretend it didn’t happen, I thought it better to write another post.

  • John Bost April 3, 2016, 7:57 am | Link

    Now I am confused. Did you hear this sound in Aulstralia or the U.S?

  • Jane December 29, 2015, 3:41 am | Link

    Omg. Week 3 in our new house. It is currently 3:30 in the morning. I have been scared to death that there is some kind of dinosaur like creature prowling the back yard and about to pounce in my daughter’s window. Thanks for being the first site on Google.

    • Jane December 29, 2015, 3:49 am | Link

      Also, how did I get such a grumpy avatar? It is actually reflective of how I feel after knowing I am getting no more sleep tonight. But how does Google know *everything*?

      • BobinOz December 30, 2015, 9:57 pm | Link

        Ha ha, yes, my avatar dispenser clearly sensed your mood 🙂

        Glad to have put you at ease, the noise can be a little disturbing. I actually heard a story just last week about a young girl trying to get to sleep here, she thought there was a man prowling outside, breathing rather heavily and strangely, she was scared as well. It’s not nice until you find out what it really is.

        Sleep well, Bob

  • Heather September 13, 2015, 1:01 am | Link

    Having recently moved, this noise started two nights ago and was freaking us out. All kinds of imagined scenarios, none pleasant, in the depth of night. Thank you for posting this. We can sleep easier now!

    • BobinOz September 13, 2015, 6:33 pm | Link

      Ha ha, yes, those noises can be a little unsettling, can’t they? Much better when you know what they are. Glad to have helped Heather, cheers, Bob

  • Jerry Cramer April 1, 2014, 11:56 pm | Link

    Thanks. We must have a couple types of possums living in our trees. I was lying in bed tonight 12:45am and I heard the same sound as in the youtube video. I Googled to find out what it was! And hey, here it is. Thanks 🙂

    • BobinOz April 2, 2014, 1:26 pm | Link

      Comforting when you do find out what it is, isn’t it? 🙂

  • Ashleigh November 6, 2013, 7:22 am | Link

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This noise has been freaking me out for over a year now! Thank you! I can finally sleep a little easier now when I hear it.

    • BobinOz November 6, 2013, 4:39 pm | Link

      Glad to have helped Ashleigh, sweet dreams 🙂

  • Marion October 8, 2013, 11:07 pm | Link

    Yay!!! at last an answer for this ‘strange’ sound we hear every night, sometimes so loud it’s as if the creature is at the opem door. Been baffled by this for years, soneone told me it’s an owl, but I haven’t seen any owls. BUT we have a large number of possums in and around our garden. So thank you Christine, mystery solved. Thank you Bob, for posting the ‘soundtrack’ 🙂

    • BobinOz October 10, 2013, 11:54 pm | Link

      Wonderful, another satisfied reader 🙂 Glad we were able to help Marion.

  • brigitta January 4, 2013, 5:47 am | Link

    I LIVE IN TURKEY,REMEMBER….. Besides, I am very responsible with my cats, they have their own cages, only two old and lazy ones can wander at night (but they prefer their comfy beds in my mudroom. Unfortunately, I never saw or heared that poor critter again, but a friend from New Zealand tells me that they can survive colder temperatures, hope it found itself a place to live….

    • BobinOz January 4, 2013, 9:22 pm | Link

      Alright, no need to shout, I forgot 🙂 I’ve got about 600 comment conversations going on at once! Anyway, I’m sure your critter has survived, they are very resilient. My bet is you haven’t heard the last of him.

      Cheers

      Bob

      • brigitta January 5, 2013, 5:40 am | Link

        I’m sure you are a busy man, no problem,who knows, maybe “it” will really come along again one day, I’ll keep some fruit ready 🙂 . By the way, while searching youtube for possums after our “encounter”, I came across a ladie’s video that I absoutely LOVED, we started talking and have become real good (facebook/ skype) friends by now. Looks like she will come here to Turkey, and we are definitely planning to get to Australia for a visit (she lives in Brisbane). Funny how things happen, isn’t it……

        • BobinOz January 7, 2013, 1:50 pm | Link

          Haha! The Internet has made the world a much smaller place. Thanks Brigitta!

          • brigitta January 7, 2013, 9:48 pm | Link

            Reading on the net how badly Australia is burning in many a place, so sorry to hear that, hope you aren’t affected…………..

            • BobinOz January 8, 2013, 10:40 pm | Link

              Yes, it’s bushfire season again, and unfortunately certain areas of Tasmania have been hit hard. No, I’m not affected, let’s hope not too many other people are in the future either.

  • Patroclus December 28, 2012, 8:06 pm | Link

    Thank you for this! I have been mistaking this death rattle sound for either madness, or some other kind if extraterrestrial being. Phew!

    • BobinOz January 2, 2013, 8:53 pm | Link

      Always nice to discover you’re not mad after all 🙂

      • brigitta January 2, 2013, 9:13 pm | Link

        When I first heared “The Thing” I thought one of my cats was getting choked by something 🙂 Was nice to find out that they were all safe and sound….

        • BobinOz January 3, 2013, 2:07 pm | Link

          Glad your cats are okay, but in case you don’t know, it’s always best (and I believe the law) to keep your cats in at night and away from Australia’s natural nocturnal wildlife. I can assure you, you wouldn’t want any of your cats to get into a punch-up with a possum. It would not be pretty. Cheers!

  • brigitta prager June 30, 2012, 4:14 pm | Link

    Hey, you ARE getting things mixed up! The Opossum usually lives in the USA, and has a whitish face (most famous member, Heidi, ths cross eyed opossum in a German zoo). And then there are Possums, which have little to do with Opossums, and they are native to New Zealand and Australia. Go check that on Wikipedia, that’s where I got it from. Reason, believe it or not, last night we were woken up by this animal sound that lets the blood freeze in your veins, first I thought it was a cat in utter distress, like being choked by a snake or so. Then my husband and me went outside together with our dog who was going beserk from that sound and barking his lungs out. With a flashlight, we searched our garden, and then we spotted this “thing” in an olive tree outside our fence, and it wouldn’t run away but kept making those eerie sounds and we could hear it move around the tree. Being a keen watcher of National Geograpic and such, I immediately said, that does looks like and OPOSSUM, but impossible that that lives here. “here” is a small village in Turkey on the Aegaean coast near İzmir, so it was hard to believe that you would find such an aminal here. This morning I got on the internet, trying to figure out what the hell we might have seen and heared last night, and around a few corners and with the help of youtube, I came across this video that made me 99% sure that we saw a brushtail last night. As far as I know they are considered a pest and thus not protected, so the only solution for that puzzling question of “where the hell did it come from??????” is that some private person had it, and it either ran away from home or they dumped it here in this area not being able to look after it. Our climate isn’t too bad, it can easily survive a winter, there is lots of food around, so I guess we might have that guest for some time. By the way, I am a German married to a Turk who has lived here for 20 years, always in the warm areas of Turkey, and I have NEVER seen anything (or heared!!!!) like that

    • BobinOz June 30, 2012, 7:40 pm | Link

      Yes, it’s true, I WAS mixed up way back then, but I’m better now. Did you not see the update? Check out my new page called Possums and Opossums: Australia and America. All Explained.

      Fancy that though, the brushtail in Turkey! Are you sure? Maybe it was a stowaway on a ship, you surely wouldn’t get one of those past customs.

      • brigitta prager June 30, 2012, 8:32 pm | Link

        Well, “stowaway” is something that cme to mind later, as well. We are very close to the refinery PETKIM in Aliağa, and in that area, there is a huge container harbour, too. So, who knows, maybe “The Thing” as I call it now, maybe was something like a pet/mascot on one of those freighters, there is a lot of steel production, too, in this area, and the harbour is buzzing. And yes, believe it or not, we have lots of eucalyptus trees here as well, actually no good idea because they draw incredible amounts of water out of the ground. “The Thing” didn’t run from us, either, it kept crawling around the tree making those spinecurling sounds (I was afraid it might be an animal with maybe rabies), but it didn’t try to flee. I put some water out, waiting if “IT” comes back tonight . We’ll have our phones ready to maybe take a video or al least record “THAT” voice. Actually, in the youtube videos I could find, they look real sweet, wouldn’t mind to take it in, but our dog would probably suffer a heart attack :))). IF “The Thing” shows up again, I’ll keep you posted. My comment: THAT’S GLOBALIZATION AT ITS BEST.

        • BobinOz July 1, 2012, 8:01 pm | Link

          Yes, do keep me up to date. I’ve heard that if you give them enough food, they can become quite friendly. I think the noise they make is to warn other possums to stay out of their territory. Maybe if you explain to this one that there probably aren’t any other possums around, he might stop doing it.

          Worth a try.

          • brigitta prager July 1, 2012, 10:05 pm | Link

            Well, no “Here I am” noise last night. I put a bowl of water outside of our fence under the tree where we saw “The Thing”, and food isn’t necessary, our figs are just about ripe, so it would have a lot to munch on. There are ripe tomatoes in our garden as well, another tree is full of apricots. I’ll see, maybe tonight I’ll cut a few branches off the eucalyptus trees along the main street and put them in a bucket of water under the tree. Looks to me like it might have moved on, though, and if you knew our area here, you could see that it must have sustained itself for quite a while, we are living far away from any settlement, no kitchen raids possible here. IF we hear from it again, I’ll let you know. I am really wondering about this creature, both my husband and me are well educated people, we don’t go for wild imaginations, but THAT was really something else, and we BOTH saw “The Thing”……..

            • BobinOz July 3, 2012, 1:55 pm | Link

              I’m not sure they usually move on though, I believe they are very territorial. So if he settled in your area, probably still there somewhere.

              Do let us know if he returns.

              Cheers!

  • Will November 13, 2011, 11:18 pm | Link

    Totally the wrong pictures there. Those are Opossums, which are not found in Australia, and a completely different animal from Australian Possums.

    Flickr’s Creative Commons search tool will show you more correct picture candidates to use if you use ‘brushtail possum’ as keywords. eg: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=brushtail+possum&l=4

    Sarah’s comment of planting more native trees and bushes is worth following up on if you want to attract and keep Possums in your area. There’s a variety of flowering and quick growing native bushes that will attract native birds and other fauna, which will also attract possums.

    To answer your question though, it’s unlikely (in the extreme) that you’d attract Koalas unless you plant the specific trees they like, AND wait the 20-odd years it’d take to grow, plus it’s unlikely there’s any nearby to attract – unless you happen to be right up against a national park or similar.
    Possums, however, are adaptable and prolific and even live in the central parks in Sydney.

    Possums can, though, become a nuisance – they like nesting in hollowed out trees. Failing that – the roof cavity of your home will also do just fine if there’s any minute gap they can fit through.

    If you’ve got a corrugated metal roof, you’ll likely notice their presence immediately. It’ll sound as though an entire herd of elephants are playing rugby on the roof. Seriously, for such a small creature they really do have disproportionately large footsteps.
    Once we had a small family of four or five possums playing and fighting on the roof one night for long enough that I had to go outside, grab the hose, and drive them off to get any sleep.

    Good luck.

    • BobinOz November 15, 2011, 6:21 pm | Link

      Hi Will

      Thanks for letting me know about these incorrect pictures, although it has already been pointed out to me. That resulted in a new blog post with proper Australian possums in it. You can read that one here …..

      Possums and Opossums

      I’m going to make a short update to the post in a minute to explain that.

      As for waiting 20 years for those trees to grow, for a man my age, that’s cutting it a little fine. I’ll have to settle for seeing koalas at North Stradbroke Island or in other peoples back gardens.

      Funnily enough, I do have a corrugated metal roof and I have heard that sound. About three o’clock in the morning mostly, frightened the life out of me at first! You’re right, they have unusually heavy feet the such small creatures. They should learn from cats.

      Cheers!

      Bob

  • BobinOz January 11, 2011, 7:21 pm | Link

    Sarah, that’s a good idea but if I plant eucalyptus, wont I get inundated by koala’s? A sleepin’ and a chewin’ all day?

    Seriously though, I may well do that, it’d be nice to get my possum (or any possum) back.

    Yes, I’m afraid America has an ugly possum problem.

  • Sarah January 10, 2011, 4:08 am | Link

    If you want to attract them, plant a flowering eucalypts- your local nursery will know which ones are native to your area. As a bonus, you’ll get birds and gliders too!
    And I must say, those American opossums are NOT cute! Urgh!

  • BobinOz January 4, 2011, 1:13 pm | Link

    Hi Rod

    I’m afraid I haven’t heard the delicate sound of my possum lately, I’ve got a feeling he has moved on to somewhere else. I suppose there is one advantage to that, I get to keep all of my peanut butter for myself!

    Got to say, I miss him though.

    Cheers!

  • Rod December 30, 2010, 10:53 pm | Link

    A bit of peanut butter is a great attractant for some of them, Bobinoz. Most fresh fruit (banana, apple, pear etc) work well, too. So does fruit cake.

    I warn you though, once they start appreciating your culinary offerings they can be hard to get rid of. Be careful about getting too close , too. The same applies to any wild animal, but the claws of a brushtailed possum can do real damage, and their teeth can take the end of your finger off.

  • BobinOz April 16, 2009, 5:26 pm | Link

    @Christine
    Hi Christine

    It is comforting to know that the possums I have in my garden are probably cuter than the ones shown here. I got these images from Flickr under a creative Commons license, so it is very likely they are American.

    What I’d really like to do is take a photograph of my very own Possum family in my own garden. Any tips on how I can lure them into view?

  • Christine April 15, 2009, 9:42 pm | Link

    One more it could have been a ringtail possum http://images.google.com.au/images?hl=en&um=1&sa=1&q=ringtail+possum&btnG=Search+Images&aq=f&oq=

    There is a variety of possums that it could have been but the most common in brisbane yard is the brushtail possum, some are almost a creamy colour. We have them living in our laundry, and they like to eat the apple we give them.

  • Christine April 15, 2009, 9:37 pm | Link

    Those look like American possums our possum are much much more cuter and dont have big pointy teeth at all. They dont look nasty like those ones.

    This is pictures of the brushtail possum
    http://images.google.com.au/images?hl=en&q=brushtail%20possums&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wi

    this is sugar gliders, they are small with black and white face
    http://images.google.com.au/images?hl=en&um=1&sa=1&q=australian+gliders&btnG=Search+Images&aq=f&oq=

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