The night prowler returns

He’s back! It’s 9:25pm and I just heard him out on the deck. No doubt he’s confidently casing the joint knowing full well the mutts are safely locked inside. Trust me, he’d be inside too if we’d let him but the last time he snuck into the house and jumped onto our bed at midnight he scared the living daylights out of us and the doors have remained firmly shut ever since!

‘He’ by the way is a mangy Australian Brush-tailed Possum. He’s adorable really and mostly lives in a possum box perched in the safety of a magnificent red bloodwood just outside our bedroom. But he, along with his counterparts are one of the most complained about Australian natives, just short of the destructive Sulphur-crested Cuckatoo. The complainants…..Australian gardeners.

Our Brush-tailed Possum

It’s winter, so we haven’t seen much of him lately but don’t you worry, as spring returns he’ll be setting himself up for a first class seat in the dining cart of our food forest. His first meal will start with a delicious mixed herb entree, followed by a roma tomato supreme and finishing off with a strawberry and finger lime blamange!

Growing up in Sydney, I learnt to live with and appreciate Australian native wildlife at an early age and now as it turns out I work with them. Like many families growing up in the bushier suburbs of Sydney, over the years we had generations of possums living in our garage roof which we fed scraps of bread and fruit in return for a close-up view of their adorable offspring clinging precariously to their parents backs.

I’m still living on the bush and our backyard is a haven for a huge range of common native animals. Our infrequent visitors include swamp wallabies, echidnas, brush turkeys, lyre birds, lace monitors (goanna), blue tongue lizards and diamond pythons and on a more regular basis we have resident brush-tailed and ring-tailed possums, sugar gliders and a range of owls, night birds, Grey-headed Flying Fox and dozens of birds. Every year without fail we have a family of bush rats and antichinus (native mice) who share the back room of our house for a very short breeding period and not long ago we had a micro bat in the house – an exciting first for us.

While possums and all other pesky native wildlife are protected by law we are obligated to do our best to live with them. As intelligent beings we have the upper hand and have a number of simple solutions which can help us protect our gardens and look after our native animals at the same time. I’ll be honest, I hate killing anything and I don’t want to hear of other people setting a trap for rat fink who ate one too many of their $3 bananas from the fruit bowl. More than likely it will result in the death of a beautiful little native who breeds for the shortest time once a year and is only seeking out food for her young family. Try moving the fruit bowl instead and find out where it’s coming in.

A few years ago we invested in a solar electric fence to deter ground predators from our vegie patch. This by the way included our dogs. The very low voltage system gives enough of a zap to make you jump or yelp (if you’re a dog) but it won’t kill you, your dog or your possum. We’ve had great success and lost no plants and the dogs learnt very quickly that the vegie patch was not a good place to bury bones.

I’ve tried Quassia chips and chilli sprays to deter possums in the past with some success and netting will be a must have item for our Permaculture garden. Make sure you use very fine netting if you’re trying to deter fruit bats so they don’t get their fingers caught up in the netting. Unless you’re inoculated for lyssavirus don’t ever try and untangle them. Just contact WIRES.

Other ideas include hawk kites, scarecrows, and mini bali flags, flash tape, Skedaddle for dogs and cats, Poss Off for possums and I’ve seen disused CDs which seemed to have replaced the old silver bottle tops threaded onto string. Individual net bags are fiddly but will protect fruit and nuts from a range of pests while still letting in the light and a local Permaculturist told us that she’s given up trying to work out ways of netting the abundant supply of macadamias on her 6 metre tree and figured that she would allow the cockatoos to take their share providing she could keep one bunch of macadamias for herself.

A very generous Permaculturist indeed!

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