The brushtail possum is found in many parts of Australia, from the coastal fringes to inland areas. Possums shelter in tree hollows, and prefer open forest and woodland areas. They are nocturnal, and have adapted to living in cities and suburbs, in addition to their usual habitats.
Hearing the thump of possums landing on a roof is not uncommon, nor are the noisy hissing and grunting sounds they make of a night time. They can create challenges when they decide to make their home via chimneys or roof spaces, becoming unwelcome houseguests.
The word ‘possum’ appears in various contexts. It can be used as a term of affection – you cheeky possum! To play possum is to feign illness or death. Stirring the possum means starting a debate on a controversial topic, especially in a public space. Possums also appear in stories, such as the Australian children’s book, Possum Magic. They also turn up in poems.
The Possum by Douglas Stewart
Stranger, who are you?
What do you want?
There at the window
Where the branches glint,
With your black-nailed claw
And your black round stare,
And your sharp wild face
And your silver fur.
The link to the full poem is here.
The possum above had been hiding in a shed, and when it found itself in daylight it scooted to the top of a tree before eventually making its way to a safe place.
Have you come across a possum lately?
Photo: brushtail possum