BRUSHTAIL POSSUM (Trichosurus vulpecular)
Habitat These common visitors to our parks and gardens preferred habitat is dry eucalypt
forest where they
feed, mainly on leaves, and live in tree hollows. Found across Australia, various subspecies (such as the
Brushtail - or Bobuck - and the Copper coloured Brushtail) exist in different locations.
Breeding Brushtails give birth to a single
young in autumn or spring which lives in the pouch for 4 - 5 months
before riding on Mum's back. Mortality is high once the young brushtails
leave to establish their own home
range. The majority of brushtails killed on our roads are young males leaving home.
Notes These are
the possums that sometimes move into our homes. Brushtails are very adaptable animals, and
in the absence of suitable hollows, will
nest in roofs and walls. Relocation is not the answer... To find out why,
see our Living with Possums fact sheet.
Leading a largely
solitary life, brushtails are very territorial, defending their range with deep guttural coughs and
tree hollows form when fungus and termites eat out the dead centre of old trees. Most Eucalypt species
do not form these hollows until
they are at least 100 years old. Although there are vast tracts of native plantation
timber (particularly on the East Coast), they
are typically harvested at around 60 - 80 years old. So of course
hollows do not form.
Since European settlement, literally millions
of trees (and hollows) have been lost to urbanisation, industry,
roads, and agriculture. As if that isn't bad enough, our struggling
native animals have to compete with introduced
Honey Bees and Indian Mynas, which aggressively colonise hollows.
These factors have
led to some pretty desperate little critters trying to live in somewhat 'B grade'
accommodation. Some examples are: Sugar Gliders trying
to live in the fronds of Banana trees, Feathertail
Gliders turning up in the electricity boxes on top of power poles, Microbats trying
to sleep in mailboxes, and our
seldom seen little Antechinus' trying to raise their babies in sock drawers, and even kitchen stoves.
from ideal. Many of these animals of course turn up in care.
Benefits of Nestboxes
Although we cannot possibly hope to replace the countless
natural hollows lost in the bush, our towns, cities,
and farms were once forest. As a result, there is an awful lot of displaced wildlife
competing for an ever
decreasing amount of this prized real estate. This is where we can all really make a difference in our suburban
and rural properties.
A single well-placed nestbox, which survives, say 10 years, can see a pair of Rosellas raise 10 generations of
A slightly different box could provide a secure home to 6 adult Sugar Gliders. Different shape again could
provide a luxury home to
that 'trouble-some' Possum in your roof. Whilst yet another shape provides five star
accommodation for up to 50 Microbats. And, when
you consider that a single Microbat can consume one half it's
own weight in insects a night. That's an awful lot less crawlies in your
veggie patch. And, they provide this
service completely free.
Nestboxes also provide priceless education for your children. Watching
wildlife on TV is wonderful, but there is
something very special about watching native animals coming and going, feeding, and raising
their young so
close to your home. If you've ever seen a Mountain Brushtail Possum looking out of her box at dusk, Pink nose
on front paws - you'll know what I mean.
Nestboxes are fun, easy and cheap to make, and once up will provide a secure home for many
years to come.
A word of caution: If you own a cat, putting up nestboxes which attract birds & mammals to your garden, is a
Below is a plan for the construction of a nestbox suitable for Brushtail Possums. Materials used, and notes
below the plan. Please note that all sizes marked are for INTERNAL DIMENSIONS.
Wildlife Fact Sheets - Building a Nest box for Brushtail Possums
This fact sheet contains information sourced from members of Tweed
Wildlife Carers, members of other groups, independent advice, and research
The best materials for construction are either, 3 cm thick plantation pine (hardwood is a product of native forest),
pine plywood. There is of course no need to use expensive dressed timber. Rough sawn or even
second hand timber is ideal. Just make
sure if using second hand, that it is free of nails, and any unknown paint.
Your box is best screwed, rather than nailed together,
and may be finished off with filler in any gaps, a coat of
primer, undercoat, and lastly a dull acrylic finish. The roof can either
be hinged conventionally, or simply make an
outside hinge out of a piece of old rubber, which also helps to make it weatherproof.
couple of off cuts on the inside of the roof to prevent slippage, and either mesh, or a few thin strips of off-cut
baton on the inside
front to allow the youngsters to climb out.
VERY IMPORTANT: Drill a few 5mm drainage holes in the base. Young birds have quite literally
non-drained boxes. And lastly: Throw a generous handful or two of wood shavings or sawdust in the bottom...
and we're done.
you're now the proud owner of a new Brushtail Possum nestbox. Where to place it?
Aspect: Choose your position carefully. Think about
which side of your house takes the brunt of cold wind, and
driving rain. (How comfortable would you be with an open wall on that side?)
Face the entrance away from
prevailing winds, and make sure that the box will have plenty of shade during the hottest part of the day.
from the chosen tree by a piece of wire threaded through a scrap piece of garden hose (so that it doesn't
cut into the tree), or alternatively,
nailed to the tree using 2 strips of galvanised steel. The strips need only go
halfway round the tree to allow for growth, and to prevent
FOR BRUSHTAIL POSSUMS, you need to position the box 12 -14 feet above the ground.
OK. So your new nestbox is in place,
and you're sitting back with a beer, or a cup of tea waiting for the homeless
critters to move into their new home. Don't be disappointed
or surprised if no one takes up residence
immediately. It can sometimes take weeks, or even months, for someone to show some interest.
many reasons for this:
• The box is 'too new', unfamiliar. It looks and smells new and out of place. Give it time to 'weather
become part of the local landscape.
• Most birds for instance, nest in the spring. Birds don't normally live in nests, only
requiring them for breeding.
If your box went up in May, it may not be required until say October.
• Mammals such as Possums do live
in hollows all year round, but it's not until the parents actually kick the
youngsters out of home, that junior will go in search of
a new home.
• While you're waiting for the box to be occupied, please resist the temptation to keep looking inside. You
don't know who's
checking the box out when you're not looking, and constant disturbance will only
discourage them. You'll know when the locals move
in by watching, listening, and by looking for droppings
Also, do not be alarmed if 'the wrong animal' moves into the nestbox.
Hey, if an Eastern Rosella moves into the
box you so carefully made for a Brushtail Possum, so be it. Obviously the Rosella's need
was greater. Native
animals will often move into the 'wrong sized' box.
To finish off, just a few words on maintenance. Once
a year, just have a quick look to see if any repairs need to
be done, such as filling any gaps, a quick re-paint, or making sure the
box is still securely fastened to the tree.
Also, watch that the growing tree doesn't pull apart the fastening.
Birds: Some introduced
birds such as Sparrows, Starlings, and Mynas have become a menace; driving native
birds away, or even building their own nests on top
of existing eggs or young. Nest building by these species
should be discouraged by removing nesting materials or eggs. If Indian Mynas
are a continual problem, you may
want to add a Myna baffle to the front of the box.
Bees: The introduced honeybee has also become a
serious problem in some areas. They will readily colonise
tree hollows (real or artificial). If you have a problem with bees, look
up beekeepers in your Yellow Pages.
If you've taken the time to build and place a box like this, pat yourself on the back. YOU WILL
have made a
difference to YOUR local environment. Congratulations.
A FINAL WORD: Once your new box is occupied, please resist feeding.
Feeding native wildlife is not a good
idea. It fosters familiarity with humans and domestic animals. It encourages a dependency on
an artificial food
source, which will stop if you go on holiday, get sick, or move away. And lastly, your feeding routine is soon
out' by local cats and dogs. Animals are at their most vulnerable whilst feeding, and are particularly at
risk when instead of feeding
high up in the canopy, they are encouraged down to your level. You just don't know
who is watching from the bushes. (This includes
birdbaths placed near cover). Please don't encourage your new
residents to become 'cat-bait'.