Why I like possums

cartoon-possum-10

We had the pest control man at our house the other day because a family of possums have decided we are such great company they want to live in our house too.

My housemate is a light sleeper, so hasn’t had much shut eye for about two months now as mum, dad and baby possum decided to have wee parties nightly in the roof above his bedroom.

Being a deep sleeper I rarely hear them, but when I do it just makes me have wondrous dreams in which I am reliving my misspent youth in London off my face at rave parties.

I find it hard to think of possums as pests. They are just too cute with their sticky-out eyeballs and fluffy tails. I guess it just depends on where you grew up. I was born in New Zealand and while we did have possums there, they weren’t considered nearly as pesky as the hedgehogs (or so I was led to believe).

While they weren’t considered pests on the same scale as rabbits – until myxomatosis that is – I was brought up to believe they were disease-ridden beasties carrying some new type of bubonic plague.

Such a worrisome description was a little over the top on past reflection as you didn’t really see hedgehogs alive that much anyway. That’s because for some unfortunate reason, the little critters seemed to have developed their very own “shock and awe” tactic which they mistakenly believed would protect them from one-tonne motor vehicles.

They would curl up into little balls hoping the spikes on their back would protect them from oncoming traffic. Alas, this didn’t work. And the streets were strewn with once-round hedgehogs, now very flat, with the odd spike sticking up in a last gasp of deathly defiance.

Perhaps hedgehogs were so feared because, unlike Australia, New Zealand doesn’t have any creatures that will kill you.

We did have a mythical spider called the katipo which supposedly lived in sand dunes and could kill you with just one bite. But growing up on the South Island of New Zealand it was never really hot enough to go to the beach, so the chances of running into one was very slim indeed.

Such a lethal creature-free childhood meant I didn’t really know what to expect when I first came to Australia. All the stories of the nasty critters over here made me think that snakes would be slithering around everywhere.

But over the years I have become a little less ā€“ how do I say it ā€“ terrified, of the nasties that reside in this sunburnt land. Living on a banana farm in northwest Western Australia cured me of that.

I fell off a ladder when I came face-to-face with a snake, and ran about 1km in the opposite direction every time I came across a blue-tongue, goanna, spider or one of those extremely large grasshoppers landed on my leg.

And we won’t talk about the time a crocodile ate the cow.

To me, it seemed like all the creatures in this country were on steroids.

Maybe that’s why I don’t mind the possums that much. In my opinion they are much better looking than the insects and animals mentioned above and they probably won’t kill you.

Except, perhaps, through sleep deprivation.

This blog first appeared as a column in the Toowoomba Chronicle in 2003.

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