Common name: Possum
Scientific name: Trichosurus vulpecula
Management programme: Site-led

Why are they a pest?

Possums are only considered pests in the site-led programmes in Dunedin. Our friends across the ditch may love them, but possums are causing a lot of trouble to New Zealand’s biodiversity and farming. Possums mostly eat plants but also feed on invertebrates (animals without a backbone or bony skeleton), young birds and bird eggs. They damage young native plants by ripping off their leaves, meaning exotic trees can take over native forests/bush. They are also a threat to plantation forestry and farmland used for grazing. They also spread Bovine Tuberculosis, a nasty disease that infects mainly cattle and deer but can affect other animals and humans.

What do they look like?

Possums have a furry body, a long bushy tail that they can use to hang onto branches, a pointed snout, pink nose, long dark whiskers and brown eyes. The males and females are similar in size; between 650-930mm including their tail and can weigh up to 6.4kgs.

What are the rules?

Under Otago’s pest plan, possums are only classified as a pest in the site-led areas; Otago Peninsula, West Harbour/Mt Cargill, Quarantine Island and Goat Island.

The goal is to assist communities to eradicate possums in these areas to prevent or improve on damage to the indigenous ecosystem values at these sites.

There is only one rule for possums that applies to the site-led areas and that is that no one can keep, hold, enclose or otherwise harbour possums in these areas. You also can’t bring them into the site-led areas.

How will we achieve that?

ORC will take a lead role in supporting the goals of community groups and agencies in site-led areas in relation to possums. This may be through advice, education, funding, service delivery or requiring landowners to undertake control when needed.

How can I control them?

Trapping is the main method for possum control.

Predator Free New Zealand and OSPRI have advice on their websites.