Possum in the Roof!

A possum came to visit inside the roof of the big people-kennel but unfortunately I did not get to eat this one. It would have been interesting to compare the flavour of this Ringtail Possum with the Brushtail Possum I ate last year.

My people told me they heard the sounds of a small animal scratching and scurrying around inside the roof of their big kennel at night for the last few nights. It sounded like a very small animal so they assumed it was a rat (or rats) as we’ve had a wild rat come into the people-kennel once before. The animal in the roof didn’t sound heavy enough to be a big fat Brushtail possum which is the usual type of possum that invades people-kennels. We have rats around my yard as we live near the bush. They sneak around behind the unfinished brick wall and try to get to the nice-smelling barbeque on my verandah but just my presence is usually enough to scare them away. I also have to occasionally bark at the possums when they run along the top of the fences. I’m sure they do it just to annoy me! They also annoy me when they climb around in the huge gum tree that’s in our neighbours’ yard and hangs over my family’s big kennel. Mum said that the branches are now touching our roof and making a bridge for any critters that want to climb across it.

Anyway, thinking it was rats, Dad put 2 traps inside the roof on Tuesday night. Mum wouldn’t let him use stuff called Ratsak as she says it’s inhumane and also dangerous to me if I catch one of the poisoned rats. My Mum likes rats, even the wild ones, though she’d rather keep the wild ones out of her big kennel. She doesn’t like the traditional rat ‘snap’ traps either but at least they provide a quick death and are relatively humane compared to some of the other ingenious but horrifying objects of torture that are available to catch rats and mice, so she only grumbled a little bit when Dad brought home the 2 rat traps in addition to the “ultrasonic pest repeller” that she’d asked him to buy.

Not long after the traps were set there was a big crashing noise inside the roof as both traps were set off! I was already asleep outside so Mum told me later that my youngest man-brother climbed up the ladder and lifted the cover off the man-hole in the ceiling and looked inside. He saw the little Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus — much smaller than a Brushtail but bigger than a rat)  sitting nervously, holding one paw up off the wood it was sitting on. It was free of the traps but had hurt its front right leg. My brother climbed into the roof cavity then Dad climbed the ladder and popped his head up to have a look. Dad shone the torch on the possum while my brother tried to catch the possum in a towel. It was very crowded in the roof with the air-conditioning ducts and the timber framework all around so my brother couldn’t reach the possum easily and it escaped from under the towel and quickly ran away and hid.

ringtailpossum1aA little while later my older man-brother came home (this was after midnight and Mum and Dad had only just gone to sleep) and after another short while my 2 brothers heard the possum again. This time it sounded like it had fallen down inside the other side of the roof cavity, right behind a door to another crawl space. My older man-brother slowly opened the door to see the possum sitting there looking quite stunned and staring back at him. The possum sat there for quite a while so my brother was able to take a couple of photos of it. He then carefully tried to catch the possum but once again it quickly ran away. No-one was really sure if the possum had been trapped inside the roof for the past few days or if it was coming and going each night so my brothers decided to get one of my water bowls and leave it in the roof for the possum to drink from and they also left a whole apple in there for it to eat.

In the morning (Wednesday) Mum quietly and slowly opened the door and shone a torch inside the space but there was no sign of the possum, who was either gone or hiding again. About half the apple had been eaten and there were dirty possum paw prints on the edge of the bowl where it had been drinking.

We didn’t have a proper possum trap so Mum contacted WIRES (Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service) to see if they could help. They said that they don’t hire out possum traps and their volunteers could only come and get the possum if it was already contained somehow. They gave Mum the phone numbers of 2 professional possum relocation companies in our area but after looking at their websites Mum decided they might not be quite right for our current situation. Later on my older man-brother, who had gone to a place that he calls ‘work’, used his talking-thing to ask Mum if there was any update on the possum dilemma. My brother said that there was a possum trap he could have a lend of, so Mum asked him to bring it home, which he did later in the afternoon.

When the trap was brought home Mum took me back outside before my brother opened the door to the lower roof crawl space. They didn’t want me inside as they thought I might suddenly chase the possum and hurt it if it escaped through the little doorway.  My brother climbed into the crawl space to have one last look around for the possum before putting the trap in there. The possum was nowhere to be seen, until my brother looked up above the door. The poor little possum (yes, I’m starting to feel sorry for the possum now because it has a sore front right leg like I had a few days ago, and it feels kinda wrong to think of him/her as food now) was curled up in the insulation wool in the framework above the small doorway.

It just sat there, totally traumatized and completely still. My brother reached in and gently stroked its back once, then Mum handed him a towel so he could carefully wrap the possum in it, and they put the possum into a perfectly possum-sized cardboard box so it would feel snug and safe. We didn’t need the possum trap afterall. Mum used the talking-thing on the wall to speak with my vet’s office to let them know we would be bringing the injured possum to them in the next few minutes.

Mum stayed home with me (and let me back inside again) while my brothers took the possum to my vet. They told me that the nice lady behind the desk in the vet’s waiting room (who always pats me and says nice things to me) took the possum in the box and wrote down our address and then my brothers came home. We don’t know what happened after that but hopefully Mum might be able to find out tomorrow. Mum said she thought that the possum might have to be euthanized as it probably had broken bones in its leg or paw and the recovery process would be too traumatic for it to survive. I’m not quite sure what that all means but I always like going to see my vet so maybe the possum will like it there too.  I hope they were able to make the little guy feel better so s/he can eventually come home again — well, not home to the roof but at least to the nearby bush as there’s lots of nice trees well within 50 metres of where the possum was found. Mum told me that possums can’t go very far from their homes or they’ll get into fights with other possums and get hurt or killed. I’m glad I’m not a possum!

Update: Mum used the talking-thing to contact my vet’s office the next day (Thursday). They told her what she expected to hear — that the vet assessed the possum’s condition and made the decision to euthanize it yesterday. Mum told me what that meant and that it was better for the possum to be put out of its pain and misery humanely rather than to subject it to further trauma.

Update: On Friday morning the talking-thing made a noise so Mum spoke to it. She told me later that a local WIRES volunteer was checking through her records and saw Mum’s report so she wanted to know what had happened to the possum. The lady was happy that we were able to catch the possum and take it to the vet, even though it was sad that the possum had to be euthanized, and she could sign off on the report.

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