Freeze most of this in smal

Mrs. Bev Langley
ph. (08) 8270 1169
fax. (08) 8270 6546
e-mail: mintonfarm@adam.com.au
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Copyright 2007

Minton Farm
Animal Rescue Centre

Possum Nestbox Fact Sheet

About Possums

Building Nestboxes
Tools Required
Materials

Feeding Platform
Suitable Foods to Offer Possums
Preferred Possum Food Plants

Unpalatable Plants to Brushtails

Repellents

About Possums

This information is to be used as a guide to managing possums in our own backyard.

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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Building Nestboxes

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.

Tools Required

Saw, square measure, drill, hammer, screw driver, pliers, hole saw.

Materials

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 galvanized nails.

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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Feeding Platform

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 possums

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 Plants

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 maculate.

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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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Repellents

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 are:

Multicrop"Scat"- 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.

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