Hello possums! Spotting Possums in Australia

ANZ June14Today is actually a holiday in my area of Brisbane, it’s known as Peoples Day. It’s so that everybody can go to the EKKA and if you don’t know what that is, then this is for you:

For me it means a day off to spend some fun time with my family and it also gives me a chance to reprint another one of my Australia and New Zealand magazine articles.

This one appeared in their June edition. It’s called…

Hello possums!

hello possumsHello possums!

Iconic Australian entertainer Dame Edna Everage would often greet her audiences with those words. What is a possum though? And in real life, living down under, how often do Australians cross paths with possums?

Does saying “hello possum” to a possum happen very often? How many possums have I said hello to? Yes, today’s article is about possums.

Let’s start with answering the question “what is a possum?”

It would be easy to say that a possum is a cute little furry thing that lives in Australia. The real answer though is a bit more of a mouthful, because a possum is a medium-sized quadrupedal diprotodont arboreal marsupial with a long thick tail that is native to Australia, New Guinea and Sulawesi (Indonesia).

I prefer cute little furry thing, but maybe, to be more specific, I should say a medium-sized four-legged two big front toothed tree climbing furry thing that carries its young in a pouch AND has a long thick tail.

So now we know what a possum is.

You might also like to know that the possum got its name from Captain Cook’s botanist, Sir Joseph Banks, who named the Australian animal a possum because it ‘looked like’ the American opossum. They are not related though and Australian possums are undeniably cuter.

So how often do we see these cute things in Australia?

Well, they are nocturnal, so you are very unlikely to see one during the day, but at night it’s a different story. I’ve seen lots of possums in my time here; my very first encounter was as I was watching drivel TV in my lounge.

It was late at night, my mind was wandering, my head inexplicably tilted slightly to the left at some point and I found myself staring at a critter who was staring straight back at me through the window.

There we were, staring at each other.

To break the ice, I waved. The cat-like creature didn’t wave back, he turned around and trudged off. When a cat moves though, you know it’s a cat, because they glide. This thing didn’t, and that’s when I realised I’d seen my first possum.

At the time I hadn’t lived in Australia very long and what I didn’t realise was that the possum had lived in my house longer than I had. Whereabouts he lived, I didn’t know; maybe in the loft, it was a possibility.

Or perhaps he lived in a tree, but he certainly regarded my house as his home, possums are very territorial. I would hear strange beastie sounds during the night, very strange sounds indeed.

I can assure you this video DID NOT appear in the magazine, but I can re-publish it here..

Not limited to but including what sounded like some kind of animal being dragged through the bushes along with a deep and repetitive teeth chattering growl. Turns out it’s the noise my possum made to warn other possums to stay off of his patch.

Since then I’ve seen possums in my back garden, in friends’ back gardens, in trees while camping and I have even seen them in the city. On holiday once, I had one join me on my balcony and a few weeks ago one came into a restaurant where I was eating; he is a regular visitor apparently.

Click on these images below to be taken to the original posts about them:

possum 5 Another possum Possum close-up

A wild possumPossums really are an Australian cute little furry thing.


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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Warwick August 14, 2015, 9:55 am |

    Hi Bob,
    you say that possums are cute.
    Well, they’re pretty enough, but they can be very nasty. Ordinarily they will scratch you savagely, if you come near them.
    There are some possums who’ve learned to get along with people but they are very exceptional.

    Here we regard them as a part of our “heritage.”
    In New Zealand, where they’ve been introduced, they are regarded as loathsome Australian vermin.
    Here they’re protected but in New Zealand you can kill as many as you like.

    An amusing dilemma arose out of this situation some time ago.
    The powers that be in Canberra decided that they would have a “welcome to country” ceremony performed by an important Aborigine, to open a session of parliament.
    It may have been to open the new parliament house, I’m not sure.

    Anyway, they located an important Aborigine but there was a problem: she insisted that she needed traditional robes for a ceremony, and her traditional robes were made from possum skins. But other important bureaucrats in Canberra vetoed the killing of possums.
    They solved the problem by getting some hunters to kill some possums in New Zealand. And the ceremony went ahead with all due dignity.
    It seems that possums per se are not so highly valued, only the possums actually resident in Australia.

    • BobinOz August 14, 2015, 7:55 pm |

      Yes, you are right to point this out Warwick. Possums are very cute to look at, but like any wild animal, you wouldn’t want to corner one. That said, my experience with them is that if you do try and get too close, they simply scarper.

      I think I mentioned in the above article that one joined me on a balcony when I was on holiday once, he was very comfortable in my company but when I did try to get closer to him and as soon as I got within about a metre and a half, he jumped off the balcony onto a tree branch and disappeared.

      Funnily enough, I stumbled across a New Zealand website the other day that talked about possums and how much of a pest they were, so I do know that they are quite happy to kill them over there. Here though, I think it’s different.

      I have several posts about possums and plenty of comments from people who have become friends with the possums that share their houses, mainly because they leave our food and water. Easy way to win over a possum I think.

      But they are still wild animals and they do have claws and teeth.

      Nice story about the Canberra ceremony. Cheers, Bob

  • Richard Bazley August 13, 2015, 2:48 pm |

    Love the blog Bob and I love Possums, even though I own a possum wool beanie.. ? I think it’s your generosity of spirit that sets you apart from the other Blogistas.

    • BobinOz August 13, 2015, 7:26 pm |

      Thanks Richard, I appreciate your compliments. As for that possum wool beanie, it’s wool as opposed to fur, so I can’t really see a problem with that. Cheers, Bob

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