Feeding possums can be a great way to watch their behaviour and interact with nature, but there are some disadvantages as it can change their behaviour and encourage more possums into a small area.
Possums in cage
It’s best to provide food erratically, so the local possum population does not come to rely on the food you provide. When the possums have to forage for themselves and only get a small amount from you, it ensures they maintain a more balanced diet.
Remember they may be getting some food from you as well as other rich pickings from your neighbours, so even moderate amounts provided by several different home owners, can encourage the local possum population to rely on a poor diet.
The natural mixture of food for possums is predominantly native leaves, with some flowers and small amounts of fruit and insects. Normally, they will eat a very wide range of food (even scavenging in open dustbins), but if you provide a good supply of tasty items, they get lazy, and just hang around waiting.
Then trouble can start, with fights between possums as you are tempting other possums to enter the territory of those that usually visit your garden. Possums will defend a territory for their own family group, so fights lead to injuries and it is well documented that a serious possum skin disease is more frequently found when there is a high density of possums and animals feeding together.
That skin disease, called “exudative dermatitis” gets into the skin damaged by fighting and can result in very serious infections, even leading to death from a complex mix of bacteria that includes Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria with a high risk to humans.
The availability of food may also attract rats and mice, as rodents will happily feed alongside possums: it is not unusual for us to discover customers who have been feeding rats, thinking they are some type of possum.
So while possums will prefer the rich slices of tropical fruits, the best option is to supply a beautiful garden full of native trees. But if you do have to feed them do not provide it every day. Certainly if you see possums fighting for access to the items you have provided, then it is time to stop for a while.