Screeching possums shatter suburban calm
Possums have a darker side. Photo: Bill Othos
Their big eyes, little pink noses and long whiskers melt hearts, but possums have a dark side.
Greg Brown has turned his fascination with them into a solid business for 20 years, much of it coming from people fed up with the nocturnal marsupials' screeching fights.
He said people may not realise many squabbles were a fight to the death, mostly over access to a home.
''They will kill over a hole,'' he said.
A pregnant female with a baby on its back would push the youngster out of the home when the new baby arrived.
''She'll kill the baby on her back if it doesn't move on,'' Mr Brown said. ''A lot of people hear them squealing and running around in their roof. ''
Now based on the Central Coast, the former Canberra and southern NSW resident said possums were tenacious, and would follow a rat into a roof by chewing out little holes in fascia boards.
In the wild, they would invade a parrot's nest, eat any young ones and take over the nesting site.
''That's what they do,'' Mr Brown said. ''They don't go hunting the birds, they don't go looking for homes, but sometimes they have to move on, the young ones do.
''Eighty per cent of their food is gumleaves. I've seen one chewing on pork chop bones.''
Commenting on a photograph of a possum eating a piece of toast, ACT Parks and Conservation director Daniel Iglesias said abundant food in suburbia meant there was no need to feed them.
For two years bold possums have terrorised a Belconnen family, entering through a cat lid, and smashing crockery while plundering the kitchen. One got into the lamingtons on Australia Day.
Turning on the light used to send the mother possum scurrying for cover. Now she walks out nonchalantly, having forgotten the time her baby was trapped in the kitchen and trashed the place.
Mr Brown said possums' noise and urine stains put people off, although some could live in roofs for years and come to light only during repairs or renovations.
Others turned up in cupboards.
He rarely traps possums, nor does he re-locate them.
''If you trap one and move it to another area, that will kill it. They are very territorial,'' he said.
''We don't trap them, we use one-way doors and trick them out of a home. If you don't get one out with the first try, they will become 10 times harder. They rip and eat at things.''
■ Have you defeated a possum menace in your home? The Canberra Times would like to hear how. A gardener uses bird cages to protect choice herbs while another correspondent says it's pointless to build a box for a possum removed from the roof. ''They will just try to get back into the roof and ignore the box,'' he said.