Monday, June 25, 2012

A Kind Word For Possums

AS READERS will be aware, Andrew Bolt is a great favourite at the Billabong, but even the most enlightened and decent folk can sometimes succumb to irrational and impractical prejudices, which the columnist has done today with an update in regard to his loathing of possums. Now it is true that possums are annoying creatures, forever fornicating on the tin roof of the Billabong’s garage and rousing a poor Bunyip from his slumber. But they were also here before us and, in their own way, a reminder of just how silly greenish sorts can be. Anyone who reads the Phage, for example, will be aware of those regular reports on mankind’s damage to an allegedly pristine Australian environment, which is a very black-and-white affair according to the advocates of environmental abstraction. What those sorts fail recognise – and Andrew falls into the same trap – is that our environment is a dynamic affair and that humans are very much  a part of it, as we have been since the first dusky migrants arrived on the continent 70,000 years ago and clubbed into extinction all those wombats the size of Volkswagens.  New eco balances were struck, species faded and others bloomed, and urban possums are but the latest example.

Andrew laments the damage to his roses and bulbs, but it is those same tasty plants that have so boosted possum populations. Much the same thing can be said of flying foxes, seldom seen in Melbourne in the Sixties but now ubiquitous. Andrew’s real problem is not possums but the romanticism that has produced laws and regulation forbidding their sensible management. According to the prevailing green nostrums, possum mischief must be tolerated because their booming populations are “natural”.  It is the obverse of that same philosophy which says cows must not set hoof on the High Country because it, too, is “natural”, despite having been altered and transformed by more than a century and half of white intervention. Until the prejudice against humans is stripped from environmental laws, their purpose will remain the hopeless pursuit of an idealised state of nature.

As to Andrew’s problems, there are several solutions. First, he should get himself a fox terrier. If possums invade his ceiling, popping the dog into the roof space will see a mass exodus. The dog will enjoy it too.

Second, get an eager cat. Your average moggy will find a full-grown possum just a bit too much to handle, but possum kittens are short work for any semi-competent cat. Every day for a week last breeding season, the Billabong’s recreational killer left another dead possum baby on the kitchen floor. The local possum population seems a bit smaller this year and the murderous moggy now slumbering beside the Billabong computer is the likely cause.

One thing Andrew shouldn’t do is trap the little buggers and release them far away. Apart from being illegal – and wouldn’t The Age just love to report that the columnist luvvies fear may soon be running things at Fairfax is a tormenter of wildlife -- possums are quite territorial and deal severely with intruders. Moving them means death and neighbouring populations will only expand into the vacated territory.

Full disclosure: Possums are a favourite at the Billabong, where several have been nursed back to health during heatwaves, which they do not like at all. A restorative diet of Monte Carlo biscuits and condensed milk does the trick.



  1. "A restorative diet of Monte Carlo biscuits and condensed milk does the trick."

    What, no almondine yoghurt with a sprig of mint?


  2. Please don't give the environmentalists any more ideas Professor. They'll have your cats locked in cages soon. No doubt the greens will have cat inspectors climbing into your ceiling and running their fingers through your cat litter looking for incriminating evidence. More useless Green jobs we don't need.

  3. At the end of the day they are a minor pest, which fact is far outweighed by their overall cuteness. Had 'em in the roof space once, but managed to plug the holes. Problem solvered.
    Now fruit bats - there is a pest problem of enormous proportions, with town parks being wiped out across the nation because the 'mentalists won't let anybody touch the filthy, destructive creatures. Nothing a couple of fellers armed with a pouch full of cartridges wouldn't fix. The bats I mean, not the 'mentalists. Commons sense will sort that lot out eventually.

  4. PhillipGeorge(c)2012June 25, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    We could just do more to honour the traditional owners and get Robert Doyle in Possum skins.....

    How about Possum skin coats at the Melbourne Museum gift shop? Elle could do a possum bikini money shot. Marieke could do a page three possum loin cloth. Prof, we could make a killing.

    [big question Prof. If weren't for the Age would we still have a desal plant? ie. A newspaper with dead refugees on its metaphorical door-steps? A shrine of barely concealed skeletons....]

    a DeWitt made it happen - another could do it again.

  5. Pythons: to wit, big buggers, preferably the Queensland Carpet snake variety. They love a good possum, and they rarely intrude on your domesticity. A guaranteed solution to all of your, and Mr Bolts Possum Prevails.

  6. Possum territories aren't like mining leases.
    They're actually quite dynamic.
    Moving them doesn't mean death.
    Far from it- possums learn to live with such changes. Vacated territories (whether forced, or the possums simply moved on) can remain vacant for years.
    The whole moving/ death story is likely a fable in the service of laws implemented to make politicians and bureaucrats feel good.

  7. Your cat is allowed out at night? You obviously don't live in Geelong. So fearsome are the cats of the City of Greater (than what) Geelong they must be kept inside at night lest they tear off the face of some poor intruder.

  8. If you are into bush tucker possums are quite tasty.

  9. Possums - the scourge of urban and suburban Melbourne. Those beasts take over property, chew through electrical wiring, hold stomping parties on roofs till the wee small hours, intimidate the natural habitants of the brick and tile structures... They look with scorn upon those who would try to persuade them to move elsewhere...these "protected" species are now running gangs all over Melbourne holding the hapless residents hostage. They are under the law - and when someone is looking - The Untouchables. And for what reason? They are now in plague proportions!!

    We must do something and take a stand against these furry gangsters. A .44 is too good for them...a bazooka is better.

  10. Errrr....through the looking glass.....

    Introduced Australian Possums are public enemy #1 in NZ.
    Good food sources plus zero predators = 20 million of the *uckers.
    Forest destroyers.

    NZ poisons them.
    This equates to the world's greatest poisoning via 1080 per hectare of any country on earth.
    An ex Cabinet Minister owns the 1080 concession.

    I've driven often at night on fishing expeditions on the coastal highway Sth Westland and cleaned up 1 per 5 kms, 40 on a trip Haast - Franz Joseph for a decent feed.

    You dislike them enough, just drive straight.

  11. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.June 25, 2012 at 7:18 PM

    They are really cute little urban critters. Much sweeter than sneaky rats, nicer than smelly flying foxes, better than greedy Indian Mynah birds. Animals adapt to urban life, just as we do. Nowhere is 'pristine' and nowhere ever was. We sort ourselves out, we can sort out the wildlife. Keep feeding 'em, kindly Prof. Personally, my contribution to their continuance is to try to talk them down from suicidal behaviour on electricity wires. They are very careful listeners, I've found, and eventually they rumble off. My little kitty (since returned to heavenly feline stardust) disagreed with my methods and had her own.

  12. On the matter of Bolt and possums, is it possible that his possum-skin clad nemesis may again attend the Palais de Justice in less amenable circumstances.
    The Oz had been reporting (ahem) accounting irregularities in the accounts of certain dusky trusts in South West Victoria, but all has gone quiet of late.

    One can only hope the delay is due to the DPP making things watertight or waiting until Justice Mordy has a full dance-card.

    The Irish Lion

  13. Pfft

    Trapping the possum and taking it far away is a plan a friend of mine utilised when he had piddling, pooping, mating possums in the ceiling.

    He took the critter out of town several miles and let it go.

    When told of the plan an old timer told him that the possum had probably beaten him home.

  14. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.June 26, 2012 at 5:16 PM

    My contribution to possum health and welfare was to talk them down from suicide missions on Sydney's urban electrical wires. My little cat (sadly now in kitty heaven due to a transfer to southern climes) in her glory days used to have quite other ideas about possum population control. Pusscat and I probably cancelled each other out in terms of the end survival rate of those cute little furry critters.

    I did post this (or similar) previously Prof but either you or blogspot axed it due to my incompetance or it's wafting in the internet ether somewhere with other lost electrons.