This is an Australian Brushtail Possum. Pretty cute little critter, isn’t he? Until he begins living in your roof, or rather, your chimney. I live in a Victorian era house with four fireplaces and four chimneys. I thought most of them were sealed off to prevent possums living in them until a few weeks ago when I began to find rather unusual objects left behind in the fireplace in the dining room.
I have found berries, figs, apple cores, snail shells, pizza crusts, orange peel, half-eaten slices of bread and grossest of all, a rotting chicken drumstick. Eeeeewwwwww! The possum is raiding garbage bins and sitting atop the chimney pot as he eats. Naturally, he has no way of catching the food he drops.
This means I will have to take action. Possums are protected in New South Wales so you are not allowed to trap them. You can get a professional to trap them for you but he is not allowed to relocate the possum more than 200m from your property. The only option is to wait until the possum comes out of the chimney pot and then seal it up so he can’t get back in.
This procedure is fraught with problems. Possums are nocturnal and sometimes don’t come out until well after midnight. It isn’t recommended to be climbing on your roof at that time with a hammer and steel mesh in your hands to block up the chimney.
There was nothing for it but to call the Possum Man. The Possum Man’s name is Baz. He looks a bit like the late Crocodile Hunter only with glasses and a beard. I sometimes wonder if the beard is a disguise, it is so thick and lustrous. I wonder if Baz moonlights as a Possum man because he is sick of his day job as manager of a recruitment firm and possums afford him the excitement he is missing. One day I am going to pull on his beard to see if my suspicions are correct.
Last night the possum didn’t come out until 12.30AM. Baz and I sat outside drinking strong cups of tea and eating chocolate biscuits, checking the chimney pot from time to time with those night vision binoculars they use in the SAS. It was Monty Python meets the Bourne Identity.
Right on the dot of 12.30AM the possum emerged, stretching like a cat, tail brushing the sky like a feather duster. It jumped – bounce bounce bounce and disappeared on to the road. “I saw a possum jump three storeys once,” said Baz. “Didn’t even flinch, just went about its business.” I began to wonder if possums had some kind of myth attached to them, like a cat with nine lives.
Swift as a rigger, Baz was up on the roof shining his SAS strength torch into the chimney pot. “Looks like we’ve got a problem,” he said. “You’d better come up and have a look.” I have to stress that I am not a terribly agile creature. I am the type of person who stumbles when walking in a straight line. Standing on rooftops is not really my thing,especially after midnight, but the tone in Baz’s voice revealed that he would brook no argument, so up I scrambled.
There I was, feeling slightly nauseated, yet strangely elated, standing on my freaking roof in the middle of the night. I had to steel myself to look in that chimney pot thinking that at worst it was full of a hideous collection of half-eaten food; at best, a bag of treasure. I was ill-prepared for what it actually did contain.
“They look like they’re about three weeks old,” said Baz. “They’ll die if we pull ’em out.” There they were, three little baby possumettes, all fluffy and cute, their huge, saucer eyes shining in the torchlight, huddled together like rolled up scarves in a drawer.
Baz indicated we climb down. “I’ll come back in a month and see if we can get ’em out,” he said. “In the meantime I suggest you seal up your fireplace from the bottom so they can’t drop in.”
I haven’t been able to take Baz’s advice. If one of the babies falls I don’t want it to get stuck in the bowels of the chimney, so I’ve placed newspapers in the fireplace. And cushions to break their fall.
Looks like I’ll be picking up discarded food for a little while longer !