Possums are a major pest in New Zealand. They damage native flora and fauna and transmit tuberculosis to cattle and deer.
Possums are a threat to New Zealand native flora and fauna - both by destroying the native natural habitat and directly feeding on natives. Possums have been seen stealing and eating birds eggs.
30 Million Possums! > Landcare Research recently carried out a study to estimate the number of possums in New Zealand. Dr Bruce Warburton announced at the 2009 National Possum Control Agencies conference that he believes there could be as many as 30 million. If control was not undertaken he believes there would be as many as 48 million. Maintaining the 36% reduction is costing New Zealand around $80 million per annum. Trapping, shooting and poisoning are all used to stem the tide. The complete eradication of possums on Kapiti Island took 6 years and cost many hundreds of thousands of dollars. Possum numbers are regulated by the availability of a suitable food supply and the predators that control them. Consequently, due to the high density of suitable vegetation and the lack of natural predators here in New Zealand our possum density is more than 10 times that of Australia.
Bovine Tb (tuberculosis) > Possums are very susceptible to bovine Tb and the disease progresses rapidly in possums. Infected possums excrete large quantities of the bacteria and if they are feeding on pasture where cattle or deer also feed there is a great risk of spreading the disease. Creating a major threat to New Zealand milk and beef exports.
Power poles and trees! > Possums cannot tell the difference, often causing massive blackouts and personal electrocution.
Possums eat pasture > It is estimated that only 10 possums will consume enough to graze one sheep.
Possums eat roses and other garden plants > They will also live in our roof spaces, and given a chance become a general nuisance around homes and other buildings. When travelling, possums dislike dense undergrowth and do not like wet feet.
Native trees under pressure > 75% of all RATA - KAMAHI forests in New Zealand have suffered severe damage. Continual browsing on favoured trees could cause the eradication of some unique New Zealand native trees.
Possums may digest in excess of 21,000 tonnes of our forests and pasture daily. Possums are very selective browsers and often return again and again to the same trees and shrubs, stripping them completely of all new growth shoots and fruit often to the stage where the tree will simply die.
Possum life > Cool southern areas breed bigger animals than northern areas. Normally breeding only once a year in the autumn, the gestation period is 13 - 18 days after which time the blind, naked young travel up into the pouch where they remain for approximately 120 - 130 days, vacating the pouch completely by 200 days. Normal life span is 5 - 6 years, occasionally up to 10. Possums are usually solitary animals. Nocturnal, omnivorous marsupials, possums sleep during the day, eat both plants and small creatures and have a pouch to keep there young in. Possum dens are normally found in thickets of gorse, flax, scrub and among the roots of trees. Occasionally in the forks of trees, but mainly close to ground level.
Fur trade > Possum fur trade was at its peak in the early 1980's with over 3.2 million pelts exported annually worth over 23 million dollars in exports. The current anti-fur sentiment worldwide resulted in a drastic downturn in demand. In 1992 only 100,000 pelts were exported.
A flour blaze* or other visual lure can be added to the tree to attract possums to the position of the station.
If you are protecting your roses or fruit trees from possums, don't pace the stations in the roses or fruit trees, select a position that will intercept them on the way to the fruit or roses.
If bait is not being taken after two weeks, move the station to a new location, there may be something about that tree that deters the possums.
*A flour blaze is made by dusting the tree or post below the station with a mix of ¾ flour, ¼ icing sugar and a spoonful of cinnamon or curry powder.
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