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Living with humans - A possum responds to "Living with wild animals" article

Politics of indoor and outdoor possums

I hear that there has been a bit of a kerfuffle in the candobetter possum camp - among the humans, that is - over whether I should be living outside or inside.

For me, of course, there is no doubt. 'Inside', as humans refer to some of the bigger wooden hollows in Brisbane, is the normal place for possums. We don't live 'outside' by choice. We live in holes in wood, like humans. What did you imagine? That we sit under trees holding fig-leaves over our heads in torrential rain by choice? No, we possums have the same needs as humans. To paraphrase Shakespeare:

"I am a Possum. Hath not a Possum eyes? Hath not a Possum hands,
organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same
food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases,
heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter
and summer, as a Human is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If
you tickle us, do we not laugh?
[Try it some time!]
If you poison us, do we not die?
And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the
rest, we will resemble you in that."

The only reason you may find us outdoors (except for nights of the full moon, singing) is because of the housing crisis in Australia, notably in Brisbane, where I was born and reside. I used to come to this place with my mother between 11pm and 2am and we would sit in the shelves in the kitchen, avoiding possum hoons outside. You can see us in a film about the housing crisis that shows me when I was little.

Now I am living permanently in this very big old dead tree, made of finest extinct Brisbane Forest, with many superb hollows containing refrigerators, stoves, bookcases, baths, computers, with running water and food. My particular haunt is the comparatively small, snug hollow (known as the AWPC possum-box) behind the door of the hollow adjacent to the kitchen, where the backpack used to hang. The giant human I share with lives in a gigantic hollow at the front of the house. We rattle around here.

Sure beats Vinny's clothing bins.

I won't pretend that I didn't like that backpack - it reminded me of mum - but I do admit that the possum box is more durable and harder to get me out of. Best of all, the human who placed the possum box here, doesn't try to take it to work with him. We both got a shock when he tried to pack his lunch and novel to take to work the first time.

See more about that episode in "Living with Wild Animals"

For us possums it is obvious that humans know very little about us. That is the reason they are so intolerant. So I have taken it upon myself to write this educative blog.

Possum circuits and time-share arrangements

Some of you may be surprised to hear that the other night another possum slept in this box. Since I am not going to go into my private life, I will not tell you whether it was a male or a female possum, but I can tell you that it is quite normal for related female possums to live together, and for male possums to visit.

It doesn't mean that this place is going to be inundated with possums. We are too territorial for that. (Although not as territorial as humans; most of you want the forest all to yourselves - although you call it 'inside'. Ha!)

Male possums have a big circuit and visit a number of females and different possum quarters in their travels, for reasons which you may guess. They often sleep rough.

Female possums have a smaller range of addresses and they prefer comfort and security. I felt secretly triumphant to realise that the human here, initially so keen to keep me 'outside' (it's unofficial about the small refugee population of possums, bats, rats and birds in the roof) was disappointed after I spent two nights in the possum box then didn't come home the next.

Well, that's about my rhythm at the moment. Two nights in the box and the third night visiting relatives. There is a bit of a time-share arrangement among a wider circle with the possum box.

I spent the last two nights here but I'll be sleeping in the ceiling of a kiosque in the Roma Street Gardens tomorrow, after dining off some of those rare fruits. We spread ourselves around. We are not the ones who ate all your roses; it's snails - because there aren't enough birds. Encourage birds and you will not have any big problems with snails.

Only another two hours before the sun goes down here in the tropics, so I think I'll have another little nap. Hopefully there will be a bit of banana when I wake up. My mother started this project and it's taken years, but I think I have this human nearly trained.