Possums & Gliders of South-east Queensland

  • Common Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula)
  • Short-eared Possum (Trichosurus caninus)
  • Common Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus)
  • Greater Glider (Petauroides volans)
  • Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps)
  • Squirrel Glider (Petaurus norfolcensis)
  • Feathertail Glider (Acrobates pygmaeus)
  • Eastern Pigmy Possum (Cercartetus nanus)
  • Yellow Bellied Glider (Petaurus australis)

Housing Possums

As wildlife rehabilitators you could be called on to look after any one of these animals. You must identify the animal correctly and familiarize yourself with the species and its lifestyle, then consider how best you can meet the needs of the animal, and where necessary, provide it with the skills that it needs to survive in the wild.

Housing Baby Possums

When a baby possum first comes into care it will require a pouch to simulate that of the mother’s pouch, (the maternal pouch is flexible, warm and moist). The pouch should be made of natural fibres so that it breathes, such as cotton or wool. Stretch cotton as in a baby singlet is a good material for a pouch liner. Many synthetic materials do not breathe, or allow for the conduction and dispersal of heat, this makes thermoregulation difficult to maintain, so it is best to avoid them.

The joey will require three layers of cotton pouch liners, which is then placed into a woollen beanie, feather or sheep skin pouch. Depending upon the possums stage of development it may also require supplementary heating to enable it to be kept at a constant temperature. The possums and the pouches need to be kept in an escape-proof container.. Initially a cat carry cage may be suitable so long as the temperature can be kept stable and the wire is small enough to prevent escape.

Points to note:

  • Use natural fabrics like cotton or wool – Don’t use synthetics
  • A variety of pouch sizes to fit the growing possum
  • No loose threads that can be chewed or cause entanglement, or loops of cotton or wool in which claws or nails can be caught
  • A constant temperature that meets the needs of the possum, including age, stage of development and if relevant the illness of the joey in care.
  • An escape proof container

Housing Young Possums

A medium sized enclosure (minimum size 1 metre x 1 metre x 1.2 metres) with small gauge wire (1cm x 1cm maximum) to prevent escapes is required. If Feathertail Gliders are to be housed the whole enclosure needs to be flyscreened. The pouch can be attached high in the cage or placed in a nest box. Food and water containers should also be placed high in the enclosure. A water container is secured to the side of the enclosure to hold native vegetation and keep it fresh. (never leave the water container without vegetation or where animals can crawl into it as drownings have occurred). The cage should be set up with branches for climbing. If ants are a problem the cage can be placed on a table and the table legs placed in pot plant saucers containing talcum powder.

Points to note:

  • Small gauge wire (1cm x 1cm maximum), fly screened if necessary, to prevent escape
  • Pouch and nest box, food and water containers placed high in cages
  • Clean, fresh water available at all times
  • Native vegetation picked daily
  • Water container, firmly fixed to hold vegetation and managed to avoid drownings
  • Branches to climb

Housing Adult Possums

An aviary (minimum size 3 metres x 2 metres by 2 metres) is required for the older possum. The Greater Glider will require a minimum of 6 metres x 3 metres x 4 metres (high). Aviaries should be snake and rat proof and set up with branches, both fixed and movable for climbing. Gliders require space to practice jumping and gliding. The nest box should be fixed high in the aviary along with the food and water containers. Water containers, to hold vegetation and keep it fresh, should be fixed firmly at about waist height or higher.

Points to note:

  • Small gauge wire (1cm x 1cm maximum) to be snake and rat proof
  • Nest box placed high in an aviary
  • Food and water containers placed high off ground
  • A variety of fresh, native vegetation, branches of trees and shrubs, ground covers, climbers, including leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds and bark available daily.
  • Clean, fresh water available at all times
  • Branches for climbing and access to food, water and nest box

Make sure that domestic pets, such as cats and dogs, do not have access to the area where the possum’s enclosure or aviary is kept. The possum is being prepared for return to the wild. Possums that fail to view domestic dogs and cats as predators have little chance of survival in the wild.

Sick or Injured Adult Possums

A hospital enclosure will be required for sick or injured possums initially. Hospital cages can include large koala rescue cages or purpose built cages approximately 1m x 1m x 1m in size with heat support. Keep the enclosure covered at all times, when not attending to its needs to minimize stress for the animal.

Possum Boxes

With the loss of habitat for residential, industrial and commercial development, agriculture and forestry, tree hollows are in short supply and the few remaining hollows will be in great demand, for not only possums but also by birds, bats, and bees. In the interest of easing the transition of the hand reared possum from the safety and security of the aviary to the wild it is a good idea to provide it with a home. Ideally boxes should be familiar to the possum and be initially situated in the enclosure or aviary. The boxes (or dreys if a Common Ringtail Possum) then go with the possum to pre-release and release., This helps reduce the stress of release by providing it with a home it is already familiar with.

There are a few important points to keep in mind, when you are making or buying a possum box and installing it.

  • Use weatherproof material such as marine ply or western red cedar. Size will depend on the species to be housed.
  • Don’t use treated wood, toxic paints or varnishes.
  • Have a sloping roof to allow rain to run off
  • Punch a few small holes in the base to allow water to drain away.
  • If the chosen wood is smooth a few pieces of dowel or similar, arranged like a ladder but attached to the inner wall, may assist the animal climbing out of the box.
  • Place the entrance hole close to the top. The diameter will depend on the species you wish to house (refer to the references below for dimensions for different species).
  • Position the box with the entrance facing away from the direction of the prevailing rain and wind.
  • Do not place in the direct sun, try and use the existing canopy to provide shade from the sun.
  • The box should be installed as high as possible, a minimum of 3 to 4 metres high in the tree
  • Don’t place the box in a fork because as the tree grows it may be squashed.
  • Hang the box using wire threaded through a piece of plastic garden hose so that it doesn’t cut into the tree – hang the nest box on the opposite side of a branch or fix the underside of the box to the tree with a bracket.

For those who are interested in providing nest boxes for a variety of visitors to the garden you could do no better than to visit the Hollow Log Homes website (www.hollowloghomes.com) or look for the book “Nest boxes for wildlife: A practical Guide” by Alan and Stacey Franks. The Gould League has published “The Nestbox Book” compiled by Jim Grant, which gives information on a large range of bird and possum species and information on the design of appropriate nest boxes for each.