POSSUM

THE POSSUM PROBLEM IN NEW ZEALAND – 

The Common Brushtail Possum was introduced into New Zealand from Australia in 1837 for the fur trade. Since it had no predators in its new home country and plenty of good sources of food, it started to multiply to the point where its population has now become out of control.

At last ‘count’ there were around 30,000,000 possums in New Zealand, and if nothing is being done to manage their population, they might eventually outnumber even the ubiquitous sheep, which number around 40,000,000 (ten times the human population)!

The possum is a marsupial with a long prehensile tail. It is nocturnal and lives in forest trees. It is a major threat for birds as it eats bird eggs and chicks. They are known to even chomp on electrical wires, causing power outages. (This is why all the electrical poles in New Zealand, which are made of concrete, not wood, are surrounded with a metal cylinder long enough to prevent possums from climbing onto them.)

In addition to threatening bird species, possums are also a threat to forests as they love new foliage. What they leave behind are dead trees.

The government has taken various control measures such as hunting, trapping, aerial dropping with 1080 [sodium monofluoroacetate], and laced baits, to try and manage this invasive species.

Warning sign for possum poison - Mt. Taranaki, NZ - Feb. 2013 - photo by Denise Motard
Warning sign for possum poison – Mt. Taranaki, NZ – Feb. 2013 – photo by Denise Motard
Possum Laced Bait - Inglewood, NZ - Feb. 2013 - photo by Denise Motard
Possum Laced Bait – Inglewood, NZ – Feb. 2013 – photo by Denise Motard
Dead Possum - Inglewood, NZ - Feb. 2013 - photo by Denise Motard
Dead Possum – Inglewood, NZ – Feb. 2013 – photo by Denise Motard

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