If you’re a fan of adorable pouched animals, you’ll want to check out the possum. Lucky observers might catch a glimpse of a furry joey clinging to its mother’s back. If you’re hoping to spot one, or if you just want to make sure they don’t become pests around your home, you may be wondering: where do possums live? Read on to find out all about this animal’s haunts and habits!
What is a Possum?
A possum is a type of mammal known as a marsupial. People often confuse the possum with the opossum, which is related but distinct. The opossum is also a marsupial and appears similar, but it inhabits the Americas.
There are 69 species of possums. They range from the brushtail possum to the ringtail possum to several variations of pygmy possums. One species, the sugar glider, even soars through the air like a flying squirrel.
Humans commonly view possums as pests. They can get into the house, shed, and garden and do significant damage. They also frequently carry diseases passed on through urine and feces as well as scratches and bites.
Where Do Possums Live?
Possums inhabit Australasia, including the continent of Australia and its many surrounding islands like New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Tasmania, Celebes, and the Solomon Islands. This is the only place they occur in the world outside of captivity.
Which Habitats Do Possums Prefer?
Possums thrive across Australia in a variety of habitats. They find ways to survive in both urban and rural environments, proving themselves amazingly adaptable. Woodlands, rainforests, eucalypt forests, and coastal shrub forests are their favorite haunts. They do best when they have plenty of trees for refuge and camouflage.
These locations also allow them a plethora of food sources. Possums enjoy a diet rich in plant matter, insects, eggs, fruits, rodents, and even dead animals. They are opportunists, grabbing any chance for a good meal. Though their presence can be problematic, they may help to eliminate other kinds of pests in the area.
Do Possums Burrow?
It might come as a surprise, but possums don’t live in burrows. They do occasionally dig holes, as many Australian homeowners have discovered to their chagrin, but they do this in search of food. The holes are typically shallow as their claws and limbs are too small to move large quantities of earth. Bandicoots are likelier culprits than possums for this type of behavior.
So where do possums live if not in burrows? They gravitate toward the safety of tree hollows where they can find refuge in both camouflage and distance from the ground. This isn’t surprising as possums spend much of their time in trees above the ground. If forced to find a different kind of home, they seek out dark, confined places like the spaces under houses or inside attics and sheds. More social species like the ringtail possum may also take over abandoned nests or create their own.
Possums as Pests in the Home
Possums can cause problems in homes and on human property. Though they prefer to live in hollowed trees, they can’t always find these in urban areas. In such cases, they may resort to taking refuge in human dwellings. Any hole or gap in a house’s structure big enough for their head is also big enough for their body. Thus, they easily sneak into attics, basements, sheds, and garages and take up residence.
Possums are not particularly quiet. If one is present, it will probably announce that fact at some point as it skitters and thumps its way along. Possums are capable of causing damage to property and equipment by scratching or chewing. They also urinate to mark their territory. Not only can this cause stains and an unpleasant odor, but it also has the potential to spread disease. In addition to all this, possums also eat produce, leaves, and flowers from gardens.
To remove a possum in Australia, one requires a special permit. One can also hire a licensed relocator to do the job. Ways to deter possums without removing them include spraying garden plants with blood meal, closing up gaps around the house, and keeping a large pet like a dog or cat.
Possum Social Behaviour
How possums behave socially depends largely on their individual species. Brushtail possums, for example, are solitary animals by nature. They ensure their independence from other members of their species by scent-marking their territory. This allows each individual to respect the boundaries of the others. One exception to this behavior is during mating season when males and females come together to copulate. The other exception is mothers and joeys, who remain together for approximately 7-8 months until the joey is mature enough to go its own way.
Possum species with a more social bent include the ringtail possum, a highly gregarious marsupial. This species tends to congregate in small groups including one male and one or two females. Joeys are also welcome until the age of about 18 months when they become independent. This is also the only possum species where the male helps raise the young. After the joeys exit their mother’s pouch, both she and the male carry them on their backs.
Possums live under the threat of predation from a number of other animals. Dogs and cats, including dingoes, frequently go after this small marsupial. Snakes, foxes, tiger quolls, and owls may also attack and eat them. Possums live in trees partly to avoid common predators.
Humans once hunted possums for their fur. Today, the possum is protected in Australia to the point that it’s illegal to remove one from your property without a special permit. However, in Tasmania, hunters may kill the brushtail possum during a specific hunting season.
If you live in Australia or the surrounding areas, chances are you’ll see a possum from time to time. Best case scenario, they remain in their homes and you remain in yours!
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