This possum was found under our house today. I guess like emus, possums believe if they can’t see you, you can’t see them.
With great respect to that classic picture book, I say Pooh to Possum Magic. My point being that the animals we celebrate in fiction have little to do with reality. Beatrix Potter’s rabbits might be lovable pets but we don’t want them roaming around our back yards or prowling our bush blocks. No one wants to find a real Pooh Bear or Mr Toad in their living room.
The thing is, I defy anyone to find anything magical in possums. That’s because of all our native fauna, they are the most irritating. Total exhibitionists with no sense of propriety, they mate outside my bedroom window in the early hours of the morning. I wouldn’t mind if, whilst they were doing it, they didn’t create an ear splitting din. Sometimes in their sexual ecstasy they run up and down my fly wire screen. One day I know they’re going to crash right through.
More annoyingly, they dine on my favourite trees in the process reducing them to leafless skeletons. One in particular figures large on their menu. A shady blackwood bearing a pretty purple flower in Spring, it’s supposed to shade our balcony. So far we have tried every possible way to protect the foliage from those pillaging plunderers. So far nothing has worked. We’ve chopped any branch a possum can possibly reach, placed perspex sheets around the trunk and sprayed the foliage with anti-poss. Remember that saying ‘everything but the kitchen sink?’ Desperate, we once tied a discarded laundry trough to the trunk. The possums giggled like mad as they climbed over it. When we trapped and carried the offenders to a more possum-friendly destination, it turned out that another generation had been waiting to move in.
Not everyone has this negative attitude. I have a friend who all summer has one living in her wood stove. Her Christmas cards feature this critter in a Santa Claus hat. Come winter she gently ushers it outside. In this country possums are protected and we’re not allowed to destroy them. But clever New Zealanders know how to process possum fur. Enough said?