Possum Nestbox Fact Sheet
This information is to be used as a guide to managing possums in our own
Natural tree hollows have been lost due to fires, land clearing for housing and
harvesting for wood fire burning. As brushtail possums are adaptable, they
often nest in the roves and walls of the houses. In the past, many people have
trapped and relocated possums, but research using radio tracking collars has
proven they die. Pest exterminators often kill or translocate the possums,
which does not solve the problem, but causes other problems like trap shyness.
There are usually between 1 and 7 possums per house block. Males have larger
territory than females, of up to 5 house blocks if the food supply is good, or
up to 10 kms if the food is poor. Two in ten male possums survive, with females
having a better chance, and they can live up to 13 years.
Possums are territorial to a point where they will fret when released into an
alien territory. They will have to fight residents of the new area, a fight
they seldom win. 70% of translocated possums are dead within one week. Trapping
and translocating of possums rarely solves a problem, as another possum usually
moves it to occupy the territory or den site in our roof, within the short
period of time. Released possums may displace other wildlife such as owls, or
gliders from hollows. Ideally a trapped possum in your roof should be released
into a nestbox in your garden. Ie in its own territory.
Possums, like cats, are territorial. By installing a nestbox for it, other
possums may be discouraged from entering your roof. Possums can be attracted to
nestbox by placing fruit or in it, and smearing possum droppings over the box
to take away the "new" smell. Possums will urinate on, and rub oil from their
chest, chin and anal scent glands onto it to make it their territory, and use
vocalisations to defend it. Look for the tell tale oil stains and hair traces
in the entrance of the box to see if it is being used. Seal any entrance holes
into our roof while the possum is out foraging for food approx. 11pm. Possums
wake approx. 9 pm, go out to look for food and return to their den approx. 4
am. These are the times most people hear them on their roves or ceilings. Most
possums breed in winter and the young reach independence between late spring
and early autumn, to correspond with the good food supply. Therefore it is
beneficial to have nest boxes installed in early spring. The gestation period
is 16 to 18 days, when they weigh 2 grams at birth and spend 5 to 6 months in
the pouch, than 2 months on their mothers back. Females breed at 1 years and
males at 2 years. Ringtails have a favorite nest, with up to 5 other nests nearby.
These are used between February and April when the young are dispersing.
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Nestboxes can be built out of scrap pieces of hardwood, permapine or marine
ply. It should be rough sawn so possums can get a grip on it, and 19 to 25 mm
thick to provide insulation. Do not use toxic paints, chipboards or smelling
glues or sheet metal on the lid.
Saw, square measure, drill, hammer, screw driver, pliers, hole saw.
One paling, galvanized nails, inner tube rubber for hinge, or a brass screw and
washer, hook and eye catch. All boxes need four 5 mm holes drilled into the
base for drainage. Bedding can be provided by adding leaf mulch, sawdust or
straw, but the prefer shredded bark. Boxes must be installed 3 or 4 meters up a
tree to prevent cats climbing up and killing the occupants. Face the box in a
southeasterly direction avoid hot sun, driving rain and draughts. It must be
stable and up-right with the entrance hole on the left or the right side of the
box, to minimize the light, and be closest to the trunk. The lid must slope
from the back, down to the front by 25 mm for weather protection.
There are several methods of attaching them to a tree
· Using a thick wire threaded through a
garden hose to avoid damaging the tree trunk, attached as the topsides of the
box with screws.
· By screwing 60 cm of galvanized strapping
to the box, and attaching it to the tree with long twisted roofing nails to
avoid them working their way out in the wind.
· By fixing a mounting strip to the back of
the box with the screws and attaching the strip to the tree with 100 mm
Ringtail possums prefer a leaf lined "drey". These can be made from a wire
hanging basket and lined with coconut fibre.
The possums will line those with leaves for a warm, secure home. Place them in
an area of thick trees and shrubs to avoid them having to walk on the ground
where they are vulnerable to dogs, cats, foxes, owls etc. Otherwise you can
place stout ropes between trees for them to travel along.
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Will support possums trough lean times and take the pressure off the garden.
These can simply be a tray or piece of wood nailed to a branch or a fenceline.
Suitable foods to offer
Most fruits are suitable, the favorites being apples, pears, sultanas, bananas,
rockmelon, grapes, and watermelon. Most vegetables are also eaten, especially
corn, broccoli, lettuce, parsley, carrot, tomatoes, cucumber. Other favorites
include rolled oats, sunflower seeds, dry dog food, baked beans, peanut butter
and am sandwiches!
Preferred Possum Food
Possums can digest fibrous, toxic low nitrogen foods because of their long
digestive tract, slow passage and their inactive lifestyle. They especially
enjoy Acacias, such as the Silver Wattle A dealbata and Blackwood A melanoxylon
and Eucalyptus such as E ovata, E dives, E camadulensis, E tereticornis, E
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Unpalatable Plants to Brushtails
Select plant species that are prickly and spiny, such as Grevilleas and Hakeas,
Or tough and woody plants such as Banksias and Melaleucas or strong smelling
foliage plants such as Chrysanthemums, Mint bushes, Geraniums and Daisies.
Protect your vegetables by covering with wire netting. Possums proof fences by
adding a floppy fence along the top of the existing fence.
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There are range of chemical repellents that can be applied to individual plants
that can give temporary protection (but not to new growth). The most common
bird and animal repellant.
Blood and Bone placed at the base of plants.
Egg powder mix 200g dried egg powder per litter of
water with wetting agent, and spray plants.
Mutton fat with one part kerosene and leave to cool.
The mixture is wiped lightly on the lower stems. Avoid the leaves
as it may cause browning.
Quassia chips add 100g of chips to 400ml boiling water.
Stand 5 minutes, add one liter cold water and soak 24 hours. Strain,
add wetting agent, and spray onto plants.