I often joke about Penny keeping our garden clear of possums. Sure, when she goes out last thing at night to relieve herself, she does scamper about checking for arboreal visitors, but she's not as fierce as I make out. We have two types of possums living in our trees - ringtails, my favorite, and brushtails, that I don't actually find so attractive, even though I was told by a wildlife expert that the brushtail is more likely to be friendly.
I've been thinking about how lucky we are, actually, to share our space with these native mammals. If they were rare, instead of common, we'd be hiking out into the bush to find them. One of our richest men, James Packer, has plans to develop a ski resort in the mountains but he's also faced with the problem of living with possums. The proposed site is home to an endangered species of pigmy possum, small enough to fit into the palm of your hand. There's an article about this situation in The Age today and I just love the picture of a possum sitting one someone's finger.
It's the last day of autumn today and I've read that both our local species of possums breed in autumn or winter, so I'll have to keep an eye out for the babies. I'm always concerned that one of them will fall off the mother's back while she's racing through the treetops. It's never happened in the normal course of events, but one extra hot day last summer (over 44 degrees, or about 110 Fahrenheit), I found baby ringtails lying exhausted and dehydrated around the garden. The mother was dead and we greatly feared Penny had grabbed the mother, either before or after her death. The wildlife expert that I took the first babies to said that these possums have either no rib-cage (that seems strange, so I might have misheard) or a minimal one, and if a dog grabs them their lungs are crushed. It was very upsetting.
We think the family of possums just couldn't take the extreme heat. This species builds an open kind of nest of twigs and leaves, called a drey, high up in trees, and they probably got the full blast of the unusually hot weather.
I'd love to include a photo of these interesting mammals but I don't think my photographic skills are up to it, yet, so here is a link to a gallery of pictures.