Skip to most recent entry: 28/09/10
November 2004: I (Xesce) was on the balcony taking photos
of myself when I heard a lot of crashing about in the trees. A possum
was eating the seedbell that had been put up to attract parrots. The
possum was not camera shy. I took photos of the possum and the
possum did not abandon the seedbell. (To see these photos:
Over the next month, the rosellas (parrots) visit less, and it may
be because the possum has left some kind of scent behind. Eventually,
we decided against putting up any more seedbells.
One night, GK tried to hand the possum a piece of tomato, and was
scratched for his efforts. For a little while thereafter, he wore a
thick gardening glove.
December 2004: GK made a gingerbread house for me for xmas,
and put it on a table near an open window. Outside, the possum was
standing on its hind legs on the balcony railing, sniffing
plaintively in the direction of the gingerbread house. (We referred
to her as 'the possum' for a long time, but eventually decided to
call her Ginger.)
Ginger seemed very pleased to receive gingerbread. It wasn't long
until both GK and I were comfortable handfeeding and petting her. My
observation was that Ginger wasn't likely to scratch if she didn't
have to lose her balance to reach for food - it was best to bring the
food close to her.
New Year's Eve 2004: Ginger made a surprise visit less
than half an hour before midnight.
January 2005: Ginger is now a regular visitor. Rain doesn't
deter her. She doesn't visit every night, or at the same time every
night, and she doesn't come from the same direction every night, but
she comes regularly. She has pulled some pranks, like overturning
flower pots to attract attention, and eating GK's chilli plants when
no one comes out to greet her, but these pranks stop when we start
looking for her arrival every night. We become conscious that if she
visits regularly, we should take more care about what we feed her and
how much we feed her. Over the next months, Ginger shows us new
tricks, like hanging upside down from the roof, and pulling my hair
to get my attention when I am not feeding her grapes quickly enough.
She has also come into the house and looked around, and tried to
climb GK as if he were a tree. If Ginger is confronted with a choice
to eat something placed on the balcony or balcony railing, or to take
something from someone's hand, she will always opt to be handfed.
To view Ginger hanging upside down, see
Early April 2005: When Ginger is hanging upside down from
the roof, we notice that she has a new rusty colour around the
opening of her pouch, and wonder if it means that there is a baby in
the pouch. We read on the Internet that possums scent-mark their
pouches when they have a joey in the pouch. [To see the various
stages of possum motherhood, click
here and to see different methods of
feeding Cocoa, click here.]
By this time, it is rare that Ginger doesn't visit at least once per
[I'm not sure why possum pouches have a vertical rather than
horizontal opening. (It may relate to the way possums climb through
trees - the vertical opening may be less likely to snag on twigs.)
At the beginning, Cocoa was probably only .2 of a gram or so.]
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I realize that I am attached to Ginger. As for Ginger, she comes
for the food, more than anything else. GK calls her a 'stomach on
legs', but I think he is attached to her, too. She doesn't seem
highly sentimental or affectionate, although sometimes in her
playfulness it seems that she is at least used to us and comfortable
with us. There is a continuity - she continues to visit us regularly,
and so we are definitely an ongoing part of her life. And because
she is the way she is, she makes an ideal pet for me in my
circumstances. She's not dependent on me in a psychological sense.
She can feed herself. She can come and go as she pleases. So, for
now, I can enjoy her presence, not have to deal with it all the time
or do too much for her, and I will know that she will be ok if I'm no
longer around. (Also, I usually keep possum hours - staying up
nights and sleeping days.)
Ginger is probably cleaner and smells better than most dogs. She
has a very fresh (appealing) scent that is probably eucalyptus-related
(she doesn't have a medicinal scent - I don't know how to
describe it except to say that it is a complex scent, and 'fresh' and
pleasant to me). Sometimes she smells a bit like a campfire, which
seems to suggest she may sleep in burnt-out old trees at least some
of the time.
June 2005: The bulge grows, and at times we get glimpses of
a white, hairless mass inside the pouch. Also, little claws and
eventually other limbs protrude from the pouch.
Mid-July 2005: A camera is installed in the nesting box. We
see that Cocoa already leaves the pouch when in the nesting box. She
often shivers and dives back into the warmth of the pouch. She is a
bit bewildered, shaky and wobbly, but at times seems quite brave and
to have a lot of energy. Her first attempts at back-riding don't
last long - she isn't strong enough to hold on and falls off.
Mid-August 2005: While Ginger sleeps, Cocoa is often very
active, playing with leaves, jumping on her mother, biting her
mother's ears and trying to climb the wire mesh. She seems more
coordinated, and no longer falls off her mother's back when she tries
to cling. Ginger seems to be an incredibly tolerant mother.
We notice that the nesting box is very clean. GK watches Ginger
when she leaves the box for the night, and sees that she urinates
very soon after exiting the box.
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Ginger and Cocoa do not spend every night in the nesting box. The
pattern is odd, and we do not as yet have enough data to confirm a
definite pattern. Sometimes they are in the nesting box every other
night, sometimes they are in the box 4 nights in a row or out for 4
nights in a row, or a different number of nights, and it all changes
a lot, but it looks like they currently spend approximately half the
time sleeping in the nesting box. We don't know the location of
another nest or nests.
14/08/05: Cocoa is now a back-riding possum when leaving
the nest. Later in the evening when the two visit us, Cocoa is tired
and goes back into the pouch. Cocoa's fur is thick and soft, and we
have touched it. She looks like a miniature possum, but her tail is
not yet big and fluffy. She seems to have a lot of energy and still
jumps around the nesting box a lot while her mother sleeps.
21/08/05: I handfed Cocoa for the first time tonight.
Ginger was eating gingerbread, and Cocoa had squirmed around such
that her head was under her mother's, and she was trying to nibble at
the gingerbread. When I held out a tiny piece of gingerbread to her,
she wasn't afraid of me, but instead of taking it from me she nibbled
while I held onto it. I'm not sure how well-developed her teeth are
yet, or how healthy gingerbread is for her at this stage, but she was
very attracted to the smell of it, and ate a few crumbs.
It is now difficult for Ginger to get as close to the house
(and us) as she used to because the trees here have become more
sparse and branches are brittle (it is winter in Australia), plus,
she has to consider her increased body weight and the safety of her
Cocoa is jumping around less in the nesting box lately. The more
back-riding she does at night, the more her sleeping schedule begins
to resemble that of a regular possum.
05/09/05: Cocoa takes little pieces of apple, banana and
gingerbread from me, and lets me pet her while she is eating. After
eating gingerbread, she doesn't want any more apple or anything else.
She sniffs my hand, as if looking for more gingerbread. She didn't
take tomato or pear when offered the day before, but would take
apple. She is taking things more decisively than in the beginning.
Later, Ginger was in the tree, and Cocoa was on the edge of the roof,
pacing and looking a bit like she might fall off. However, she leapt
into the tree (this is the first time I've seen her do this) and
flailed about a bit trying to right herself, but she was soon fine,
and didn't appear at all scared. She then climbed onto Ginger's back.
I took some photos right after this leap. See
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Ginger and Cocoa frequently approach from the roof (although they
sometimes approach from the tree closest to the balcony). Food is
reached up to them on the roof. Cocoa sometimes drops hers in the
rain gutters, or actually falls into the gutters.
06/09/05: Ginger pounced on a male possum who has been
hanging around lately. We wondered if he was Cocoa's father, and if
male possums sometimes hang around to help protect their young when
they first start coming out of the pouch. A few times we've seen him
seeming to follow Ginger and Cocoa around - he's usually lower in a
tree than they are. (This was when Cocoa still spent most of the time
in the pouch.) Tonight, the male had grabbed a bit of apple I'd left
in the tree closest to the balcony. Later, when he came back, I
reached out a piece of apple to him to see if he'd take it from me,
but he didn't come close enough. Not long after that, Ginger jumped
on him. It could be that she was defending a food tree (me),
asserting dominance, not wanting another possum to have her tasty
food. If there was a fight, it didn't sound violent. I didn't hear
any of the hiss/bark/cough sounds. All I heard was trees rustling and
crackling under them, and it didn't go on long. We also wonder if
maybe the male is trying to mate with Ginger again, but she is trying
to put him off.
Cocoa was left on her own for a while tonight when Ginger came to
visit me. I could see Cocoa trying to make her way over, but the leap
was too big, and she kept trying out every branch she could to see if
it would reach to where her mother was. A few times she made little
distressed noises like she made when she fell off the roof onto the
balcony. Later, I saw Ginger with Cocoa on her back again.
09/09/05: Tonight the male possum accepted a piece of
apple from GK's hand for the first time. He approached from the roof.
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13/09/05: I saw Ginger chase off a larger female possum,
while leaving Cocoa up high in a tree. Cocoa tried to make
threatening possum noises. Cocoa doesn't always ride on her mother's
back now. We have noticed that Ginger often leaves her on her own
for as much as an hour at at time or more, and sometimes prefers to
have Cocoa follow her rather than back-ride. This evening I also saw
Cocoa and Ginger standing up on their hind legs like grizzly bears
and scrabble at each other's faces a bit. It didn't seem fierce, but
it looks like changes are occurring in their relationship, and that
Cocoa is moving toward independence.
16/09/05: Ginger is now back to her pre-pregnancy size and
general appearance. Ginger and Cocoa haven't been in the nesting box
much this month. When Ginger visits on her own, she spends more time
with us, and the overall patterns are similar to what they were
before Cocoa started back-riding.
26/09/05: Possums apparently like the smallest hole they
can squeeze into for nesting boxes. Lately, no possums have been
sleeping in the nesting box. GK made the hole slightly larger than
recommended. It's possible that Ginger preferred the nesting box when
she was carrying Cocoa in the pouch. GK may try to decrease the size
of the hole. However, Ginger may use that particular box again in the
future if she has another baby. GK might eventually make another
We have spotted Blackbeard nibbling
buds at times when Ginger is not around. He approaches quietly,
cautiously. We haven't seen Cocoa for at least a week.
30/09/05: Last night I witnessed a ringtail eating a piece
of apple I had left in a tree. Still no sign of Cocoa. Later: tonight
I handfed Blackbeard for the first time. He approached from the roof -
hung over the edge. At the same time, I was feeding Ginger (she was
in a tree). She didn't seem agitated by Blackbeard's presence.
Blackbeard ate a few pieces of apple, a small piece of banana and a
small piece of gingerbread.
06/10/05: Cocoa visited! at approximately 3 am. She was on
one of the wire cages that covers plants (to protect them from
possums) when I opened the door. I fed her apple and gingerbread
(because I wanted to encourage her to come back). She was in a
playful mood and ran around on the balcony, and seemed to want to
play with me. She came into the house momentarily and looked around,
sniffing things. Later, when she left the balcony, Ginger attacked
her. Cocoa squealed in fright, and Ginger sounded fierce, but
afterward Cocoa seemed uninjured. She disappeared off around the side
of the house. Blackbeard is now a semi-regular visitor. (Ginger has
not attacked him recently.)
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13/10/05: Cocoa has been here 5 times in the last week. The
first couple of nights her fur was soft and clean. Then one night I
noticed that her fur felt crusty. On closer examination a couple of
nights later, GK discovered that she was partially covered in some
kind of oil or tar-related substance. We can't figure out where she
would have gotten into something like that. It might be toxic or
harmful to Cocoa if she were to try to clean herself. Rain won't wash
it away. We didn't want to attempt to use any kind of detergent or
other product that might damage Cocoa's skin - plus, it would be
difficult to get her to sit still for a bath. GK trimmed off what he
could with scissors, and I also managed to trim a bit off later.
One night when startled, Cocoa ran and then leaped frantically
into the frangipani, not realizing that she was jumping onto an old,
dried out portion. The branch she landed on broke under her, and she
fell a considerable distance onto the patio below. She looked
disoriented and shaken, but got up and started climbing back toward
Cocoa and Blackbeard don't seem to be as adventurous as Ginger
when it comes to trying new foods [added later: Actually, Cocoa is
adventurous when it comes to food, but will not eat as wide a range
of food as Ginger]. One night, all three of them visited at the same
time. Ginger chased Blackbeard away a couple of times, but
surprisingly for quite a time all three possums seemed able to cope
with having the others present.
29/10/05: We have new video cameras (possumcams) now, but
they are not yet set up. A few videos will be added to this site
today, but it may be a long while until more are ready.
We see a lot of Cocoa. She seems healthy. Her gait is different to
Ginger's. When she runs or climbs, she often looks like she is
bounding or hopping like a little bunny, whereas Ginger has a more
athletic stalking kind of gait. Cocoa can be erratic in her
movements, and leaps spastically at times. When food is offered to
her, she sometimes finds it amusing to nibble a finger. She
hasn't tried to pull my hair, but she has found cloth-covered buttons
on my shirt intriguing, and has attempted to bite them off. She has
also ventured tentatively into the house on a few occasions to look
All three possums will walk over food placed on the ground before
them to get to food that they can see in a human hand. Blackbeard is
the most shy of the three, and the two females easily scare him away.
Blackbeard is more frightened of Ginger than Cocoa appears to be.
Cocoa has on a few occasions tried to provoke Ginger's wrath. For
example... Cocoa doesn't usually eat tomatoes, but Ginger likes
tomatoes very much. On one occasion when Ginger was glaring at her
from the roof, Cocoa was in Ginger's favourite tree insolently eating
a piece of tomato that had been left there for Ginger. She ate very
deliberately and did not seem to be intimidated. However, most of the
time Cocoa approaches from one particular side of the house, or hangs
out on the roof or on the balcony when she visits us. Ginger seems
accepting enough, unless she is on the roof at the same time as
Cocoa, in which case she will chase Cocoa away. We noticed a large
wound on one of Cocoa's legs (healing well) that might have been
inflicted by Ginger some time ago.
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None of the possums have been sleeping days in the nesting box,
but a few times during heavy rains at night Ginger has sheltered in
it. She usually curls up and sleeps for a couple of hours and then
leaves. There is currently a very large pile of leaves in the
It is possible that Ginger has a new joey in her pouch.
21/11/05: Ginger definitely has another baby in her pouch.
We estimate that at around Xmas time we may be able to see this new
one in the nesting box. So far, we have had glimpses of white,
furless baby possum, and have seen it moving around or kicking inside
the pouch. The photo of Ginger eating nachos with salsa can be
clicked to enlarge. (A bit of baby possum tail can be seen in the
Cocoa found her way into the tar again, and needed another
haircut. She now looks scruffy because her fur, once long and silky,
is patchy. Perhaps to other possums she looks punk, or like a bad
seed possum. There is no mistaking that she is a carnivore, and
continued experience shows that she is very fond of hot (spicy) food,
preferring it to almost anything else. She amused GK recently by
jumping around in dry leaves on the ground.
Blackbeard has now decided that when he visits, he only wants to
eat 'fun' foods. It could be that on his own he can find sufficient
quantities of 'healthy' food, and that when he comes to see us, it's
only for dessert, or for something he can't find on his own, egs,
gingerbread, nachos, chocolate, etc. He gets much less food than the
other two. When he discovers that there will be no more fun food
offered, he will sometimes eventually decide to take small pieces of
23/11/05: Numerous changes have been uploaded to the Possum
TV site today. GK did the flash animation. He doesn't have a lot of
experience with flash animation, and is not sure how it will work
with different browsers, or if a non-flash image will display if the
flash animation doesn't work. The old main page is here.
[I will probably continue to experiment with the look of the main
page when possible.] Regarding my changes overall: am I making a
mess, or making things more complicated than they need be? Should I
have left some things unchanged? I probably won't be able to avoid
fiddling with the site from time to time.
28/11/05: Considerable rain in recent months has resulted
in everything becoming more lush and green. The possums are eating
less people food, and visiting less frequently. It seems likely that
they are filling up on the fresh leaves and flowers that are
currently in abundance.
I had forgotten to mention about a noise Cocoa makes that is like
the hissing of a cat. The other possums make rattling, textured
noises, but Cocoa occasionally makes just a plain hiss. In October,
(the second time I saw her after not seeing her for 3 weeks), I
called GK on his cell phone to let him know she was there. When I
held up the phone to her, she hissed into it (or, probably at
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The area above one of Blackbeard's eyes has been
scratched/wounded. Also, there is a small wound on the inside of his
tail. Ginger had a larger one on her tail some months ago that healed
When a hand is placed near the opening of Ginger's pouch intense
heat can be felt coming from it. Ginger's baby appears to be very
active in the pouch at present.
20/12/05: A nest of large ants was in the main nestbox -
perhaps discouraging Ginger. GK cleaned it out. Ginger's baby is
still white, but may be starting to develop a bit of fur. It probably
won't be too much longer until it comes out of the pouch, at least
during the hours they are nesting.
22/12/05: To see Ginger's baby's eyeball, click
here. Other baby possum parts:
leg and tip of tail, body,
more leg and
more leg again.
28/12/05: For the last two days, Ginger has been squishing
herself and her baby into the ringtail nesting box. We have a camera
in there, and will probably eventually convert the footage. The two
are quite cramped, and Ginger often adopts a posture that looks like
an example of possum pilates - her legs are in the air, and she
stretches her hands toward her toes or grasps her ankles. The weather
has been quite hot and humid here, and Ginger often appears dazed or
uncomfortable. The baby, which we have named Kulfi, comes out of the
pouch although is not as developed as Cocoa was when we first
observed Cocoa coming out. Kulfi already tries to cling like a back-
riding possum, performs grooming activities, scrabbles at Ginger's
face and bites her ears. Kulfi also puts hir (we don't yet know
Kulfi's sex) head right into Ginger's ear, which seems to suggest
that the ear reminds baby possums of the pouch.
Cocoa recently bit GK, and it took him a while to forgive her. He
was trying to feed her a grape, and she may have had some trouble
grabbing it properly. Both Ginger and Blackbeard often take grapes
right into their mouths, but Cocoa's mouth is still small in
comparison. It could be that she lost balance or felt unsure as to
what to do. When she comes into the house, she will sometimes nibble
toes (it is not painful, and she has not broken the skin). I think
it's possible that she does this because we are so tall that she
either finds us intimidating, or wants to attract attention (or food)
down to her level. Ginger nibbled toes a couple of times (not
painfully, or enough to break the skin), but eventually opted to
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This year for Xmas, GK made a gingerbread possum nesting box. To
see last year's gingerbread house (also made by GK), click
Later: After dark, GK and I went for a walk around the
neighbourhood, and GK played Santa to all the possums, leaving
little bits of gingerbread in the crooks of trees.
31/12/05: Last night GK put the gingerbread nestbox on the
floor near the screen door that leads to the balcony, to see if it
would attract any possums. Cocoa entered through the regular door.
She went up to the gingerbread nestbox, nibbled one ear and the nose
of the little possum, chewed off one of the eyes and then absconded
with one of the arms. Also, later last night Cocoa climbed GK in the
[Blackbeard and Cocoa were here at midnight.]
02/01/06: As I write, possum tv is on in the background -
live possum action. Ginger and Kulfi are again in the ringtail
nestbox. We are not sure why Ginger wants to be in such a cramped
space. It has been very hot lately and is probably extremely hot in
the box. The camera is close to Ginger and doesn't focus properly,
and often Ginger's tail or one of her feet obscures the view.
Just a couple of moments ago, Kulfi was out of the pouch in one
corner of the nestbox while Ginger slept. Ginger moved in her sleep
(or lethargic state) such that she squashed Kulfi, which caused Kulfi
to hiss repeatedly.
We have observed Kulfi scratching at the walls of the nestbox -
the little claws make a pronounced noise.
Last night Ginger came into the house for the first time in a long
time. She climbed GK. She looked like she wanted to climb me, but I
was wearing very thin/flimsy pajama pants and was nervous that her
claws would dig into my leg. Ginger broke off a large piece of the
gingerbread nestbox - half of one wall - and ran off, but the piece
broke as she ran such that she ended up with a reasonable sized
possum cookie. During Ginger's visit, Kulfi's head poked out of the
pouch. When only the hands were outside the pouch, Kulfi didn't mind
that GK held a little hand - the hand did not flinch and was not
It is now evident that Kulfi is a boy.
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06/01/06: Blackbeard has been plucked.
Only a small puncture can be observed, but the bald patch is an example of a
common result of possum wars. One of Cocoa's eyes
looks hurt or infected. It is swollen and watering. Ginger currently
appears to be wound-free.
Cocoa has been coming into the house frequently,
and we actually have to coax her to leave.
Cocoa the Cannibal: The little gingerbread possum sadly did
not survive Cocoa's second attack, which culminated in a violent
decapitation. Cocoa ran off to devour her trophy in the wild
I have only recently become aware that in older browsers, the
possum tv navigation column may not display according to the proper
measurements, the flash animation may not work and that the default
photo may not display if the flash animation does not work. It will
take some time to see if there are solutions to these problems.
13/01/06: On the advice of a vet, GK flushed Cocoa's eye
with body temperature tea. She was annoyed, but not annoyed enough to
leave the house as she was being fed gingerbread. There was a
noticeable improvement immediately - by the next night the weeping
had stopped. It took a few more days for the swelling to go down.
(The swelling may have been caused by Cocoa rubbing or scratching at
her eye when it first became infected.)
No sooner had Cocoa's eye infection cleared up than she appeared
with her back end including tail covered in something black. It
wasn't tar this time. It wasn't sticky, and it didn't have much of an
odour - she might have fallen into the charcoal in someone's bbq. She
was wet in the areas that were blackened. The next night, all the
black stuff was gone, so presumably vigorous grooming was enough for
that particular problem.
Ginger has not been around for about a week now. We wonder if
maybe it has something to do with Kulfi being a male - maybe
Blackbeard would instinctually attack him as he is in Blackbeard's
territory. Perhaps in time we will figure this out.
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20/01/06: Still no sign of Ginger and
Kulfi. We are hoping that Ginger has taken off somewhere in order to
protect Kulfi until he is big enough to protect himself, or possibly
to help him to find his own territory.
Biting the hand that feeds: Cocoa recently bit me. She was
eating a piece of dried up apple core and I didn't want to wait until
she was finished eating to hand her a small piece of pizza crust. My
idea was to stick the crust on the branch Cocoa was on, lower down.
Cocoa grabbed my hand with both of hers, and bit down fairly
savagely, not even trying to grab the pizza crust. She left 3 little
scratch marks on my finger, and just a dental imprint that
disappeared after a while. I had remained relaxed, and she had let go
fairly quickly. We didn't feed her anything further that night. It
was something we had agreed on previously. I'm not sure if
Cocoa would be able to make the connection, but I didn't have any
At some point I will try to put together a kind of possum
glossary, as we have various terms to describe aspects of possum
behaviour and life. For example, a sponge possum is a possum
thoroughly soaked by heavy rains. Cocoa is often referred to as a
werepossum. GK came up with both of these terms, although we
have since seen other people refer to werepossums online.
Scrabbling refers to the way possums grab branches and pull
them closer to help them climb through the trees. Sometimes they
flail around a bit, resembling sprogs with water wings.
Grabble is another word used to describe their actions, and
grabbing hands (that "grab all they can"), is a
reference to the Depêche Mode song "Everything
Counts". Puffing refers to the rattling
hiss/growl/cough/snore noise that possums make to defend territory,
and plucked refers to a possum who has lost a tuft of fur in
25/01/06: Sugar glider sighting last
night. Both GK and I observed a sugar glider fairly close to the
house leaping with great agility higher and higher up a gum tree.
Neither of us fetched our cameras quickly enough. We thought there
were probably two of them, but one made itself more visible than the
03/02/06: Some new photos I might put
elsewhere at some point (at present I don't have much organizational
energy): Blackbeard hanging from the roof,
and eating grapes in the house.
Blackbeard has even sat beside me on the sofa eating grapes.
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Cocoa the Gargoyle: The photo to the right of Cocoa posing
as a gargoyle will be processed when I can manage it. I hope to give
her wings and a tail and a gargoylish texture. [Technically, I
think the mouth is supposed to be open such that it functions as a
spout.] In the photo as it is currently, it is possible to see the
hot curry that is smeared on parts of her face. Hot enough that if it
was on my face, my eyes or nose would probably run. (She is still mad
for hot-spicy foods.)
09/03/06: A new male possum has been about lately. This
evening he accepted food from both GK and I. (It was the first time
we tried to feed him.)
We have still not seen Ginger. We may have to accept that we won't
see her again. We have wondered if the new male possum is actually
Kulfi. When we first saw him, he looked so much like Cocoa that we
thought it might be Cocoa. [Later, one night when Cocoa chased him
off, we saw that Cocoa was actually larger than him, which may place
him at the approximate age and development of Kulfi. It is likely
that if Kulfi survived that he would become independent at pretty
much exactly this time.]
Blackbeard has been allowing himself to be petted for some time
We have decided to think of this possum as Kulfi. Kulfi took to
handfeeding immediately, and keeps coming back. In addition to the
photo to the right which demonstrates his resemblance to Ginger (note
the longish ears), we have two extra photos. He looks a bit like
Blackbeard in this
one. Here's an extra.
We are wondering if much of the info we have read online about
possums and their territories is misleading or if the actual details
are more complex than we've seen described anywhere.
04/04/06: Kulfi often runs off to eat his food in privacy,
and then slinks back to get more. He is becoming braver and will
often stay in one place to eat grapes or small pieces of food. We
have seen him on the balcony on one occasion so far. He appears to
have a few battle scars, but overall looks fit and healthy.
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Late in March, GK experienced an unprecedented occurrence: Cocoa
and Blackbeard were in the house at
the same time. They
scrabbled a bit, and Cocoa overturned the muesli Blackbeard was
eating, and also nipped at his hindquarters.
We have discovered that the brushtail possums in Sydney have
shorter, less fluffy tails than those we have observed in Queensland.
The Sydney possums also seem to have darker colouring on the whole, and we have noticed that many of
them have markings that make them look like they are wearing heavy eyeliner. Below and to the right is a
photo of a brushtail in the Royal Botanic Gardens in daytime, and here is
a photo of an enterprising possum in Hyde Park at night. More photos
taken in Hyde Park: a prancing male,
and photos of a possum swarm: three
possums on the ground, and two in the tree
Possum lovers come regularly to feed the park possums. These
possums are generally not shy.
Rats were brazen and plentiful in Hyde Park.
17/04/06: Cocoa showed up tonight with a badly torn ear and a leg wound. She is
getting around as per usual, and her personality seems unaltered.
Perhaps she's into body modification. We were very concerned by the
severity of the wound, but relieved that it wasn't something that
would impair her ability to function.
Kulfi has become a regular visitor. Like Cocoa, he enjoys meat and
01/05/06: Cocoa was in a tree near the balcony in the
daytime (we noticed her at about 4:45 pm), looking dishevelled and
scared. Maybe she was somehow chased out of her sleeping hole. She
waited around until dark (a little before 6 pm), at which time she
seemed less frightened and took some food. Perhaps whenever Cocoa has
a bad experience she comes here because she feels relatively safe
here. Since her injury she has been coming more often than usual.
It became evident to us on 22/04/06 that Cocoa has a joey in her
02/05/06: Cocoa slept in the ringtail box. She arrived for
feeding at night and seemed considerably cleaner than the previous
day, but still somewhat shaken.
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07/05/06: We are worried about Cocoa. Yesterday at around 4
pm I heard some noisy birds and discovered that Cocoa was being
harassed by said birds (including a currawong and some others). She
was again out in daylight, again with a very scruffy appearance
compared to usual, again looking frightened. She eventually made her
way into the ringtail box, and slept soundly (after falling asleep
almost immediately) from 4:30 pm through until approximately 5:30 the
next afternoon, only waking occasionally to groom herself.
She came by the house not long after leaving the ringtail box.
She was more cautious and subdued than usual. She had a few small
patches of tar on her fur, but as she was in a tree it was too
difficult to try to give her a haircut.
Since her injury, she is apparently still intimidating enough to
chase off both Kulfi and Blackbeard when they appear, or to at least
make them noticeably nervous.
When Cocoa arrives at night, GK calls her the lop-ear or
draggle-ear possum. Her ear looks like it will have a permanent
droop. To see a photo taken in the daytime on 01/05/06 that shows how
her ear is healing, click here.
09/05/06: Cocoa seems to have regained some of her feisty-ness.
Another photo of the draggle-ear was taken last night.
12/05/06: It looks like Cocoa managed to comb out the tar
that was in her fur on her own. She is in very good spirits and has a
lot of energy, as usual.
Here she is dangling
in June. To see her eating a Cocoa Lolly,
also in June, click here.
28/07/06: Possums in Melbourne parks may not be as used to
human contact as those in warmer states, but when you make the
effort, they seem to adapt quickly. We tempted this male possum with
mandarin segments (possums seem to prefer mandarins over regular
oranges, but will often eat both) and melon, reaching it up to him on a stick.
Later, he was lucky enough to sample a bit of cherry danish (shown in
a photo to the right) from one of the famous St. Kilda cakeshops -
the Acland Cake Shop. We saw other possums in the parks around
the Royal Botanic Gardens, including a mother with a back-riding
baby, but weren't able to coax any other ones closer. We left
mandarin segments and (peeled) melon for them to grabble when they
felt brave enough to venture lower in the trees. We noticed that many
of the trees in the area were sporting possum guards or 'collars',
and that many of the possums we spotted were in bare trees with not
much to eat. However, we didn't see any skinny possums.
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Cocoa is plumping up with her
baby. She seems healthy. A few leaves have been brought into the
brushtail box, and we are wondering if this is some sort of
preparation for her baby. Ginger did something similar not long
before we observed Ginger and Cocoa in the nestbox. It's only a few
leaves, not enough to seem like nesting material or insulation, but
perhaps baby possums use leaves to teethe or as toys?
Kulfi is still coming around. He is a very quick and alert possum.
He currently has a couple of small plucked parts, but he looks
healthy in the overall sense. Blackbeard also still visits
regularly and looks very fit.
31/07/06: The photo of a plump Cocoa in the entry
28/07/06 was actually taken in June. Here's one taken last night. It probably won't be
long until we get to see a back-riding baby.
05/08/06: GK has just heard from one of our neighbours that
they have a little possum, possibly Cocoa, who sleeps in their rolled
up garage door, of all things! This neighbour finds possums cute, and
first checks if a tail is hanging out, and then taps the door so the
possum will pull the tail in, to prevent it from getting caught when
she operates the door. She can hear the little possum running in
place like a hamster on a wheel. On one occasion, there was a trail
of blood on the side of their house leading up to another possum
sleeping spot where there is a hole in the eaves (not sure about
this, just guessing) under the roof. We are wondering if this
occurred when Cocoa was badly wounded a while back.
20/08/06: Cocoa's baby has been named Queek. We don't know
yet if it is a male or female. Unfortunately, Cocoa hasn't brought
the little one into either of the nestboxes. With regards to the
larger one, the one she spent a lot of time in as a baby, GK recently
plopped in a piece of gingerbread to remind Cocoa of the presence of
the box. She snuck in to gobble the gingerbread within 2 hours of it
being placed in the box, but didn't take the hint about bringing the
baby back later to sleep.
New baby part photos: a grabbing
hand emerges as Cocoa nibbles carrot cake (our first glimpse of
Cocoa was a hand reaching out of the pouch, and occurred as Ginger
ate chocolate cake), Queek's tail
hanging out of the pouch, and Queek's ear and tail.
Queek has some definite rufus colouring, and the very tip of the tail
is light while the rest is dark.
The possums receive gingerbread less often than in the past. GK
has created special possum recipes for muesli bars and birdseed bars.
The possums are very appreciative of both.
Cocoa has been vigorously defending her territory. A couple of
times recently Blackbeard has overturned himself in the trees in his
haste and panic to escape the Fierce Draggle-Ear. Meanwhile,
the 'fierce' one seems to tolerate it when GK tells her she is
"round", "bulbous" and that she resembles a football.
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24/08/06: Look at the size of that foot!
We still haven't had a glimpse of a back-riding Queek. Maybe if Queek
is male Cocoa can't let him out of the pouch in an area where two
males (Blackbeard and Kulfi) might find him an easy target. So,
we're still waiting. Here's a
photo of Cocoa twisting for a piece of apple, with Queek inside the
Later the same day: A wide-eyed and very long-legged Queek
made a first (full body) appearance tonight at 19:00. We still
don't know Queek's sex. Queek has a more elongated appearance
than Cocoa did when she was a back-riding wonder.
Queek has reddish colouring on the shoulders, similar to
Blackbeard. We haven't read anything yet about the possible
inbreeding of possums. We are not sure where Queek will go at the
age of independence. Our area so far seems to support three adult
brushtails at one time, and we aren't sure if things will be shaken
up by Queek's presence, or who will stick around in time.
Queek has a more orange look than Cocoa. This may be the usual
colouring for a juvenile coat. When she first came out into the
world, Cocoa was noticeably orange in comparison to Ginger, but is
now a much more grey possum. It could also be that baby possums are
somewhat stained by the scent-marking of their mothers.
More Queek photos: in profile (this
one depicts the long legs), a somewhat chopped off head, and a
bewildered expression, more mother and baby
possum cuteness, Queek tries to get
back in the pouch (Cocoa
is nibbling gingerbread that she has been given in honour of Queek's
belly-riding (well, Queek is still
trying to get back in the pouch, but it looks like belly-riding),
one last one with a startled (or maybe
29/08/06: Last night, Cocoa was screeching at Blackbeard
quite a bit. Perhaps she was annoyed at his stalking behaviour. We
don't know why Blackbeard is following her around. It could be that
he wants to mate with her, or that he wants to harm Queek. Last year,
when Ginger was looking after Cocoa, Blackbeard acted similarly, and
it wasn't long until Ginger had a new joey in the pouch. Also, we
recently noticed another male brushtail in our yard - one we have
never seen before. He looked large and strong, and was the most
blundering, buffoonish possum we have observed, and that's saying a
lot. Maybe he was actually trying to call attention to himself or to
antagonize Blackbeard, who was calmly nibbling food offered by the
human food trees.
Cocoa and Blackbeard both had at least one turn each sitting on
top of the ringtail box, and both appeared to be scent-marking the
area. None of this seemed to deter Kulfi from later choosing the
ringtail box as his possum hotel for the day. He has been sleeping
semi-regularly in the ringtail box, and as the weather gets warmer he
stretches out into all kinds of cute poses rather than staying curled
tightly into a ball.
I had been meaning to mention something further about possum
grooming. While possums groom themselves upon entering a nestbox
(before sleep) and at various times during the day when they wake
briefly, all of the possums we have observed in nestboxes seem to
concentrate especially attentively on grooming about 30 minutes or so
prior to leaving the box for the evening. It's almost like it's
important to possums to shower, shave, put on their makeup, do their
hair, etc, (make themselves pretty) so as to adequately prepare
themselves for their possum duties.
Before leaving a nestbox, a possum will groom itself for a while,
maybe have a little peek outside, then curl up and attempt to sleep
for a few more minutes, and keep repeating the process until it feels
ready to leave the box.
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31/08/06: Queek is a boy. He had lost his balance or his
grip and Cocoa was unconcernedly treading on him (he didn't squeal or
even look uncomfortable - perhaps he's already accustomed to this
sort of treatment) while trying to reach for food. While Queek was
off-balance, GK was able to see that he had male parts.
Queek had a leg wound, but wasn't
incapacitated by it. It's possible he had been poked or scratched by
branches. His mother does not worry about handling him roughly. It is
part of a possum's life to acquire wounds of various
We'll have to see how it all works out with having so many male
possums in one area.
GK and I have both been allowed to pet Queek while Queek clings to
Cocoa's back. Cocoa doesn't seem to mind, and Queek doesn't appear to
become anxious. He doesn't flinch or try to squirm away, he doesn't
hiss at us, and he doesn't try to scratch or bite us. I have heard
that when baby possums experience distress they sometimes poop out a
white, slimy substance. (I saw Cocoa do this once when she was back-riding,
but I have not seen Queek do it.)
After spotting a brilliantly coloured pale-headed rosella the
other day, GK quickly taped a plastic container filled with birdseed
to a tree in the hopes of convincing the bird to hang around for a
while. It didn't, but later that night, and on subsequent nights, we
discovered Blackbeard with his head in the bowl.
In a photo to the right, Cocoa demonstrates her dexterity. GK
handed her the blue cup with muesli in it, and she was able to eat
the muesli without dropping the cup until she was finished. Queek can
smell the foods we offer Cocoa. At times the little Queek nose sniffs
the air, and often what Queek smells reminds him that he feels
hungry, which results in him placing his head in the pouch to suckle
for a while.
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05/09/06: Queek is now taking solid food. We have a few new
movies (added to the queue on the possum
tv section.) In one, Queek tries to bite birdseed right out of
Cocoa's mouth and they scrabble a bit. In another, Queek accepts a
piece of carrot from GK, occasionally looking over his shoulder to
keep an eye on Blackbeard as he nibbles.
We also have some footage of Cocoa fiercely chasing Blackbeard
away. GK has noticed on more than one occasion that when this sort of
thing occurs, Blackbeard makes a clicking noise. This clicking can be
heard at the end of the "Cocoa chases Blackbeard" movie.
[The purpose of the clicking may be to calm a female possum down in
order to prepare her for mating.]
Today is the first occasion on which Blackbeard has slept in one
of our possum boxes. He chose the large brushtail box (the one Ginger
and Cocoa spent so much time in last year.)
Recently, we both noticed that Blackbeard looked thinner than
normal. (He also has a small wound on the inside of his tail, and a
small plucked area on his body.) We have been trying to plumpen him
up, partly by encouraging him to eat birdseed. Since Spring is a
mating season for possums, he may be expending his energy in trying
to mate, and if he's chosen Cocoa, she is perhaps making things
difficult for him. Olaf, on the other hand, may be so attractive to
female possums that he doesn't have to work very hard to acquire
consent. Or perhaps he's simply more forceful.
The "blundering" and "buffoonish" possum will
hereafter be referred to as Olaf the Marauder. (We also
considered 'Olaf the Blunder Possum' or 'Olaf the
Oafish'.) All of this name calling smacks of 'my possum is better
than your possum simply because I saw him first', and I don't approve
of such an approach. However, this Olaf has proven to be quite an
amusing fellow, and it seems fitting to honour him with a special
place in our story. As far as possums go, he is the largest one we've
seen in these parts, large enough that he resembles a koala, albeit a
rather feral and aggressive one. More observation will be necessary,
but he seems more brawny than brainy.
Perhaps in his remote kingdom he heard legends of a land in which
gingerbread, muesli, pizza, chocolate, etc, grow on trees, in which
the choicest of all fruits are freely offered to any possum with the
fortitude to strut up and pluck them from the branches of the
fearsome Human Food Trees. So far, Olaf has only mustered up
the courage to grabble apple peelings and carrot nubs when the human
food trees have disappeared from view, and to once clumsily grabble a
piece of apple from the female food tree extended to him on the end
of a pole. He really put his weight into the tricky manoeuvre, almost
yanking the pole from her hands. [All other possums we've had contact
with have opted for a more studied approach, carefully and deftly
plucking food from the end of the pole without need for brute
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08/09/06: Queek is taking steps towards independence. When
food is offered, he doesn't always let us hold the food for him or
stay on Cocoa's back to eat it. He often absconds with it to his own
gobbling branch. When he returns to Cocoa, for a moment they do a
cute nose sniffing thing.
On the 6th, Olaf the Marauder came skulking by again,
grabbled some birdseed and then disappeared off into the lower
recesses of the garden. He was noticeably anxious. The Fierce
Draggle-Ear has him on her radar. Later that night, she traced
his path, sniffing the places he had been. She appeared to be
Early in the evening on the 7th, Cocoa observed Olaf's movements
from above, looking ready to pounce at any second. We are waiting to
see what happens. Maybe Olaf is one of Cocoa's suitors.
Queek is now routinely trying to wrestle food away from Cocoa. He
often succeeds. On the 7th he managed to take a large apple core from
her, and then, looking very pleased with himself, quickly darted away
to find a gobbling branch (with Cocoa in pursuit.) The apple core got
dropped, and then the whole drama began again with a new piece of
When attempting to pet a possum, as with most animals it is best
not to make any sudden movements. We have found that the best time to
try is when a possum is nibbling something. Most possums will first
allow the hump of their backs to be petted (even if their backs are
turned to you.) You could also try to touch the inside of the tail to
see if the possum will curl its tail around your finger or hand.
Queek permitted us to pet him when he wasn't eating anything, but now
that he accepts food from both of us it may be that his head will
follow our hands, expecting food to come from the direction of the
hands. Beware that in such cases a possum may nip your finger. :> It
is sometimes possible to pet a possum without it expecting food. It
depends on the individual possum and on the circumstances. Some
adjust better than others to being petted, but most brushtails permit
it to some extent once they become accustomed to your presence.
Some time ago I wrote that I would like to eventually create a
gargoyle-ish picture of Cocoa. My first attempt didn't turn out the
way I had originally intended, but can be found here.
14/09/06: Both GK and I admitted that we hadn't really
become comfortable with the flash possum intro over time, so for now
it has been replaced by a (different) version of the photo of Cocoa
linked above. The old page will be linked here.
Some new items have been added to the site today, and some existing
pages have been updated.
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Olaf's visitations are still occurring. His fur looks very soft,
fluffy and clean. GK was the first to handfeed him - a piece of
carrot. He commented that Olaf was a very strong possum, that he
tugged roughly, perhaps unsure of how much force was required to
pluck food from a human food tree. We have now both been able to
handfeed him, but so far he has only had a very small amount of
food. One thing he seemed to like was gingerbread. It is apparently a
food that no brushtail possum can refuse.
Cocoa is now leaving Queek on his own for short periods.
15/09/06: We may have been hasty in our assessments of
Olaf's size. As I write, he is sleeping in the ringtail box. He fills
more of the interior than Kulfi does, but the door/hole is small, so
perhaps Olaf has a build that makes him appear larger (and more
menacing?) than he actually is.
Cocoa's pouch is shrinking back, and at times now she looks quite
16/09/06: Last night when Cocoa was preoccupied with a
light snack, Queek was off doing his own thing on his own branch. He
noticed the approach of Olaf the Marauder from below. Queek
adopted an aggressive and threatening stance, which caused Olaf to
beat a hasty retreat. It seems unlikely that a puny little baby
possum like Queek could seriously frighten a big, strong possum like
Olaf, so perhaps Queek was communicating something in possum language
that was the equivalent of poking out his tongue and saying 'unless
you leave here this instant, I'm going to tell my mommy, and in case
you didn't realize, she is the Fierce Draggle-Ear'. [We
recently witnessed Cocoa chasing Olaf out of a tree down onto the
garden floor. He did appear to be panicked.]
25/09/06: Queek was recently catapulted more than a metre
when Cocoa stepped onto a precarious branch. She went down, he went
up. He appeared startled, but recovered and made his way back to
When Queek dared to leap from the balcony into a tree Blackbeard
was perched in, the branch he landed on broke under him, and he
plummeted almost to the ground. He eventually scrabbled back up the
Blackbeard and Olaf are courting Cocoa, but she is playing
extremely hard to get. The two males appear to be losing weight as a
result of the stress and exertion.
More new photos: Queek eating chocolate,
a handsome photo of Olaf, Cocoa and Queek
eating side by side and Queek
roughly grabbing Cocoa's ear
while trying to get food from her.
Cocoa and Olaf sitting in a tree, h-i-s-s-i-n-g. The closest thing
to possum porn we've seen yet, a rather intense lovers' spat.
Hopefully GK will soon convert the footage. Olaf was quite sweet in
his approach, but Cocoa wasn't having any of it. Meanwhile, Queek was
stuck in a tree on the other side of the garden, having been unable
to make the leap to this side when Cocoa did. The encounter with Olaf
put Cocoa in such a foul mood that she took it out on Queek when he
made his way back to her (shortly after the spurned Olaf skulked
off.) She hissed at Queek and boxed his ears before relenting and
then patting his head to reassure him. Cocoa's temper didn't faze
Queek - he is probably accustomed to it.
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29/09/06: Cocoa has carried a back-riding Queek into the
house a couple of times now. It looks like she is showing him around,
teaching him about what places are ok for a possum. He is becoming a
bit big for back-riding. We also have a
photo of their two little heads up on the
Mp3s have been added to the site on individual possum pages.
On the Blackbeard pages there is an example of the clicking noise
a male makes to placate a female and get her in the mood for mating,
on the Cocoa pages there is an mp3 of Cocoa screeching, and on the
Queek pages are examples of the distressed noises a baby possum makes
when its mother leaves it on its own.
In addition, two new movies have been added to the possum tv section.
"Queek flailing" demonstrates Queek's efforts to get back
to Cocoa after she has left him on his own, and "Cocoa vents
her rage" shows the violent tussle with Olaf, and the
subsequent short temper exhibited when Queek finally made his way
back to her.
Cocoa and Ginger used to share food, whereas Queek always tries to
take food out of Cocoa's mouth, and then runs away with it.
Blackbeard is currently very fussy about food, with pears and
sultanas (raisins) being the only healthy foods he seems to want. I
think he misses grapes. (They are not currently in season.)
When possums are eating on the roof, they sometimes drop bits of
food. It could be out of boredom, as they get tired of eating
apples and carrots, but at times we wonder if they find it amusing
to fling rejected food at our heads.
Last night there was a possum party with all five possums in
attendance at once: Cocoa was on the balcony, Queek in a tree,
Blackbeard in a tree glaring down at Olaf who was lower down in the
garden, with a surprise appearance by Kulfi, who materialized in a
tree out of left field. We see Kulfi less regularly than the other
possums. At present, he has a very 'fresh' and healthy look.
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07/10/06: Several months ago, we painted the outside of the
house, but left the balcony alone. It required structural
reinforcement and a completely new balustrade (as the old one was
rotting). At present, the balcony is in the process of being fixed
up/modernized. The new balustrade will be a combination of recycled
timber, stainless steel wiring and some stainless steel posts. We
were lucky to find a young company that is environmentally aware and
specializes in utilizing recycled timber.
We will have to see how the possums like the new balustrade.
Olaf has been sleeping in the ringtail box every day the builders
have been here. The first day the construction noises stressed him,
and he didn't sleep well. By the second day he had adjusted and was
able to filter out the noise as non-threatening. He showed up for
dinner and ignored the equipment and the chaotic, unfinished
condition of the balcony.
Cocoa, on the other hand, was extremely curious about what was
happening with the balcony, and was more interested in checking
things out and climbing a trestle than she was in receiving food.
A scrub turkey has been hanging around a
lot lately. When the workmen went to have lunch, he picked his way
through their equipment, tools, trestles, etc, gobbling up Pizza
Shapes they had accidentally spilled on the patio.
09/10/06: Cocoa showed Queek all about
trestles, even climbing with
Queek on her back. (In the photo they are on a step, but Cocoa
did climb with Queek back-riding.) Queek appears quite large, and we
are wondering when he will become independent. Perhaps Cocoa is
continuing to lug him around in an effort to bulk up - such that she
will more effectively fend off her admirers.
Most recent entry: 28/09/10
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