Recently one of Peter Possums servicemen was asked to remove an young adult brushtail possum from the cultural precinct on Brisbane’s Southbank. It frequented the car park area near GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art) but it was so easily caught, there was something wrong! The possum was listness and a bit skinny. So after a brief check out when no obvious injuries or broken bones were found, it was taken to one of Brisbane’s expert possum carers and put in a special humicrib used for rearing young baby mammals, usually kangaroo joeys and very young possums.
A cultured possum proves to be a junkie
He was there for observation. Over the next 48 hours he sat in his new indoor cosy surroundings, occasionally observed by a young swamp wallaby that previously used the humidicrib but now had access to the whole of the house, racing around the corridors. This “cultured” possum recovered quickly from some dehydration enjoying regular feeds of nutritional artificial feeds normally used for much younger possums but he soon displayed a key problem.
Apart from literally biting the hand that fed him, he demonstrated that he really did not know what an adult possum was supposed to eat. Fresh green leaves, native flowers and assorted insects were not his idea of good tucker ….. he preferred junk food, like bread, biscuit and potato chips with maybe some bits of fruit, found by raiding the rubbish bins around Brisbane’s cultural precinct. This was a classic “city possum”, born and reared in an area with fewer and fewer native trees and bushes, taught by his parents to forage at night for food scraps left by the daytime visitors.
It is not unusual for city brush-tail possums to raid dustbins for food scraps and that omnivorous strategy is part of their success in adapting to the urban environment. But nature designed their digestive system for food with much more fibre and roughage, so they need to include a significant percentage of leaves and flowers in their diet.
For this young adult city possum, living in an area with few native trees and bushes proved to be a poor option, so when he was rescued he was simply weak from a very unbalanced diet. It was considered likely he would return to failure if he was simply taken back to the carpark on Southbank. So his future will be much greener as he spends the next few weeks being re-educated on possum dietary requirements, with a plan to then give him a “soft release” where he gets freedom with support from tasty natural supplementary feed for another few weeks, until he can forage for himself, eating “country possum” food, in a bush area with plenty of trees and fewer dustbins.