Possums The Greatest threat to Aotearoa's natural environment

Possums are called Paihamu in Te Reo

Possums were first introduced in 1837 from Tasmania, Australia to establish a fur trade- this first release was unsuccessful and 20 years later there was a second attempt which was the beginning of these prolific pests in Aotearoa.

The possum has a thick, bushy tail, thick body fur, a pointed snout and large, pointed ears. There are two colour forms of the species - grey and black, with many variations in appearance.

Typically, adult possums are 65 to 95 cm long and weigh 1.5 to 5 kg.

So they can be quite big!

Possums are nocturnal and can live anywhere where there is shelter and a varied food supply.

Their main habitat is forest. They are now widespread across most of New Zealand.

Possums have a significant impact on many of New Zealand’s natural ecosystems. They occur in high numbers and their own predators, such as feral cats, do not have much effect on controlling possum population size.

It is estimated that there are about 30 million possums in New Zealand. In the 1980's, there was an estimated 70 million but due to pest control, numbers have dropped.

Leaves are the main part of their diet, but possums are opportunistic omnivores. This means they will also eat eggs, baby chicks, invertebrates, including weta, and are significant predators of New Zealand land snails such as Powelliphanta.

They eat buds, flowers, fruit/berries and nectar, which means they compete with native birds and reptiles for food sources and often kill native trees.

Possums are a carrier for Bovine tuberculosis which they then pass on to cows- this impacts the farming industry greatly which causes a huge economic impact.

What is happening to help?

Possums are controlled through a combination of trapping, ground-baiting and, where other methods are impractical, aerial treatment with 1080 poison.

This is mostly carried out by the Department of Conservation, regional councils and the Animal Health Board.

Many volunteer groups around the Bay of Plenty do hard mahi to control possums in our region.

Volunteer for Friends of the Blade and the Possum they caught.

Check out Envirohub's Regional Environment Network to see what groups have been possum trapping and how you can get involved! They always need volunteers.

Make sure you get a Possum trap for your household- just get an adult to check it though!

The Possum Fur trade is also a significant contributor to eradicating Possums. Along with the exportation of Possum carcasses to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Malaysia where they consider Possums a delicacy and call them "Kiwi Bear"

Check out iNaturalistNZ and submit your Possum observations through their app or website!

And get out into your backyard and learn about Nature using other people's observations!


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