In my blog “The Silent Warriors”, I shared about a little possum who had found shelter in the garage of a property that’s about to be sold. This property has been in my family for 75 years, and by the time you read this, it will have already been sold.
I’d been thinking about this possum a lot since that first encounter, wondering if she was still living in her makeshift cardboard nest in the old garage.
Finally, the day arrived. It was time for me to travel to Brisbane to pack up all my belongings, prior to the removalists arriving the following morning.
It was a Sunday afternoon, and as the sun started to cool a little, I ventured into the dimly-lit garage. I was praying this little possum had found another hiding spot, because I had no idea what I would do if she was still there.
Possums normally have up to 5 different “homes” in their territory….so there was at least a good chance that she had moved on, and was sleeping in one of her other abodes….
I gently moved screens and boxes out of the way, just in case she was still there….and suddenly there was this scurrying. There she was again, in exactly the same spot where I’d found her several weeks before!!!
Her black furry tail gave her away, as she tried her best to hide from my prying eyes. But even more lovely was the tinier furry tail of her “joey”, which is what we call a baby possum. It was about half the size of her, and she’d positioned her body in front of her joey’s, protecting it.
Every so gently I replaced the screens and boxes, and quietly retreated into the main house. I needed a plan.
How was this going to work? With the removalists arriving in the morning, the entire garage would be cleared out, apart from some window frames that I could leave for the new owner. What would happen to the little possum, and her makeshift home?
One of my talents is that I’m a problem solver, and I approach every dilemma knowing there is a solution somewhere, I just have to find it!
As different solutions appeared in my mind, I started with the most obvious one. I rang my friends at Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, to find out the details of a local wildlife rescue group in Brisbane. What I discovered is that regulations differ State by State. In Queensland, the local wildlife groups are only permitted to catch an animal if it’s sick or injured. They aren’t permitted to relocate animals.
Instead, I was directed to a commercial possum catcher. However, they explained they would only be permitted to pick up Mumma possum and put her immediately outside the garage in broad daylight.
Possums are nocturnal, so this would be akin to someone ripping us out of our home in the middle of the night. And I didn’t want to risk that Mumma possum would be separated from her joey, so that option was clearly out of the question. And of course the likelihood was that she’d just run back inside again, or worse still, run onto the main road.
Do you want to know what I did?
I googled possum boxes. And I found a group in Brisbane who make possum homes, ie. boxes that can be attached to the side of a tree, or in this instance the side of a garage. They’re called Nest Boxes Australia, and their website is www.nestingboxes.com.au.
A brushtail possum box was less than AU$60 for the highest quality one that they make. To me, that’s a bargain for the peace of mind of offering her a new home.
So at 8am the next morning, with only 90 minutes until the removalists arrived, I had a friend collect a brushtail possum nesting box for me. Knowing the challenging circumstances, the company kindly assembled it for me, and it arrived right shortly after the removalists turned up.
I’m sure that erecting a possum box is not the usual job of a removalist, however they were very obliging. They had the tools and set about attaching the nesting box to the outside of the garage for me, positioning it so that there’s a branch of a small tree running up to it, giving her easy access.
We smeared a small amount of banana around the outside of the nesting box, so its smell would attract Mumma possum.
Now, it was time to move all the items out of the garage. Would Mumma possum still be in there, or would she have moved on to one of her other shelters after having me disturb her the day before? I was really praying that she was somewhere else, and not being disturbed by all our noise.
The removalists were great, and very efficient. It took less than an hour and virtually everything was out of the garage, except for the items in the corner where the possum had been living.
I then asked for the head removalist to be in the garage with me, and everyone else outside. The fewer people around the better, just in case she was in there.
Bit by bit, I slowly removed the screens, removed the boxes….and…..
She was there. I didn’t catch sight of her joey this time, although it would have been there behind her. Instead, I saw her frightened eyes peering out at me.
Fortunately she was tucked behind one of the window frames that would be staying in the garage.
I gathered the remaining windows, and lined them up in a row to create a “lean to” for her, being as slow and gentle in my movements as possible, in order to reduce any stress to her. And then, just as slowly we removed all the remaining items from the garage, and I left and closed the door, sending some prayers to my little friend.
Fortunately, the new owner is possum friendly. I explained the situation to her and sent her pics of the possum box, and received this lovely reply:
“Oh, that’s lovely! Yes, we will look after her – no worries.”
As you know, everything that happens in our life is an opportunity for growth, learning, insight or self-awareness.
What were the three gifts from this experience?
1. It was an opportunity for me to find a lateral solution – one that allowed me to move my items out of the garage, and at the same time respect that this garage is Mumma possum’s home right now.
2. I mentioned in my previous blog about the plight faced by our possums and other native animals as we encroach more and more on their habitat. In the wild, they’d have multiple tree hollows to nest in, and they’d move around their territory, sleeping one night in one tree hollow, another night in another. But does this translate to suburbia? Or does it even translate to the wild now, given how destructive humanity has been to the old, old trees who have those hollows in them? With such a shortage of places to live, and given she’s been in that same spot on 3 consecutive visits, I’m suspecting this is her “only” home…..well, at least until the possum box was installed. Now, hopefully she has a second home she can go to when needed.
3. It allowed me to practice something I use whenever I’m around a native animal, and that is to go into a state of “presence” where my energy is gentle and non-threatening. I know they feel it. As terrified as they are of this giant human being, they are also sensitive to energy, and can feel when something is a threat, and when something means no harm to them.
So our little Mumma possum was a beautiful gift to me. She was small – not yet fully adult, so I suspect this was her first joey, and hopefully she’ll survive and be able to have many, many more.