You’re drifting off to sleep when, immediately, there’s a bump and a thump and an unearthly shriek. However by no means concern, if your private home is making these noises you in all probability don’t have ghosts, however a household of frequent brushtail possums.
Researchers have documented 18 totally different brushtail possum sounds. These embrace “grunting, growling, hissing, screeching, clicking and teeth-chattering calls, a lot of which might not be misplaced on a horror film soundtrack”.
Frequent brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) stay throughout a lot of suburban Australia. Though typically related to bushland environments and generally thought of a tree-dweller, these adaptable creatures are additionally extremely interested in human homes.
The largest hidden housemate?
Regardless of being the identical dimension as a home cat, these vigorous, nocturnal marsupials regularly make their dens within the ceiling and wall cavities of properties. In reality, one examine of possums in city Tasmania discovered that 87% of their visits to dens had been related to buildings (principally older homes), whereas 45% of den visits had been to roof cavities.
These hidden animals make themselves recognized to their human housemates as they run throughout the ceiling. A Sydney examine discovered that as many as 67% of individuals whose properties had been visited by possums heard possum exercise on or in roof cavities, whereas 58% reported possums dwelling in these areas.
Possums within the metropolis
On the time of European arrival, frequent brushtail possums had been plentiful throughout mainland Australia and Tasmania. Nonetheless, intensive attempting to find a burgeoning fur commerce within the 19th and early 20th centuries led to a drastic decline in possum numbers. For the reason that finish of looking, habitat degradation and fragmentation, fires and fox predation have put additional stress on possum populations. In distinction, they seem like flourishing in our cities.
Frequent brushtail possums are territorial creatures, normally sleeping alone in the course of the day in dens in tree hollows, rock piles or logs. Dens are sometimes in restricted provide within the bush and possums will compete for nesting websites, typically preventing to the dying. In distinction, suburbia offers an abundance of potential nesting areas.
In reality, city possums appear to want dwelling in human-built constructions, even when hole bushes can be found. A single roof can present a house for a lot of cohabiting possums, though disputes amongst roommates might grow to be raucous.
Another excuse that brushtail possums have tailored so efficiently to our cities is their generalised weight loss plan. In contrast to specialised eucalypt feeders just like the koala, brushtail possums eat the leaves, flowers and fruit of a spread of native and unique vegetation, in addition to Eucalyptus leaves. Additionally they typically eat bugs and hen eggs.
Thus suburban gardens, with their abundance of fruit bushes, roses and vegie patches, present a “possum grocery store”, conveniently providing a various array of tasty, nutritious meals yr spherical – a lot to the frustration of many gardeners!
In a examine in eucalypt woodlands in north Queensland, Jane and her colleagues confirmed that feminine possums with entry to the best quantities of accessible protein inside their dwelling ranges had been extra prone to breed twice, quite than simply as soon as per yr.
Eucalypts are typically a poor supply of protein and that is prone to restrict populations of possums in pure bushland. Nonetheless, given the abundance of high-quality meals sources and limitless den websites in city environments, it isn't stunning that frequent brushtail possums appear to thrive there.
A possum within the roof!
Individuals who share their properties with possums describe listening to them strolling across the roof cavity. Emma’s analysis heard residents converse concerning the “thump, thump, thump” of possums strolling throughout the ceiling. Others described being jolted awake at daybreak to crashing and scraping sounds, and a sense that somebody was in the home. Some individuals admitted considering their home was haunted, a sense that was triggered by night-time noises coming from hidden areas.
Many individuals get pleasure from dwelling with possums, as a result of they really feel prefer it connects them to a time earlier than Australia was urbanised. Some individuals additionally worth private connections with possums, turning into accustomed to the people that share their backyard – even giving them names and pointing them out to guests.
Nonetheless, individuals additionally typically describe possums as a pest. They complain concerning the noise and injury that possums may cause. Injury to ceiling cavities, urine stains and odours within the ceiling are reported, and a few individuals expertise possums dying within the ceiling. These rotting our bodies might be overwhelmingly smelly and very troublesome to seek out.
It's attention-grabbing that many individuals each worth possums and discover them to be a pest. That is proof of the sophisticated relationship that we've got with native animals that stay inside our properties. We get pleasure from their wildness, however are additionally challenged by the best way that they make our properties slightly bit much less human and slightly bit nearer to nature.
Dwelling nicely with frequent brushtail possums
Even though some persons are much less eager on house-sharing with possums, they're protected below the wildlife acts of most states in Australia. Though these legal guidelines fluctuate, they often require that residents search a licence earlier than trapping or shifting a possum.
In New South Wales the related regulation is the Nationwide Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. If a possum resides in your ceiling, in NSW you'll be able to apply to the Workplace of Setting and Heritage (OEH) for a licence to entice it. Possums have to be trapped humanely and launched on the property the place they had been discovered inside 150 m of the place the place they had been caught.
Notice, nevertheless: possums moved exterior of their dwelling vary usually die. They're additionally normally changed inside 4 weeks by one other possum that strikes into their territory.
The OEH suggests that individuals stay alongside possums that share their backyard, explaining that “in case you encourage a possum to remain round and declare your yard as its territory, different possums might be discouraged from taking on residence”. The OEH additionally recommends putting in nest containers in bushes away from the home to discourage possums from nesting in roofs, and finishing up repairs to shut up any holes after possums are eliminated.
Wildlife safety legal guidelines imply that frequent brushtail possums have a proper to stay in city Australia. Which means we have to study to stay nicely collectively.
This text is a part of a collection profiling our “hidden housemates”. Are you a researcher with an thought for a “hidden housemates” story? Get in contact.