Trapping Possums – Or Not! Part Two
Graham R. Cooper
I caught a possum in the new trap the first night I put it out. That was at the commencement of last year’s winter. A lucky fluke because I’d put the apple and peanut butter bait on the bottom half of the vertical rod.
As I explained in last week’s post, I found that from then on, whenever I set the trap (the wrong way), the possum would not only get away unscathed, but also set off the mechanism and get the pleasure of knocking it for six whilst enjoying a tasty feed of apple and peanut butter.
That fleeting initial success was with the trap set in front of the compost heap. In the nights leading up to the possum’s demise we’d both been startled more than once by one scurrying away from the heap. So that’s where I’d set the trap. I left the trap there and, to my dismay, caught a couple of hedgehogs over the next two nights.
Hedgehogs eat the eggs of ground-nesting birds. But in the home garden they help by eating slugs. Discouraged by the hedgehog deaths and my less than ideal perseverance when it comes to pest control, I let the trap languish in the shed after that, for close to three months.
In late August, June was weeding the roses when her gloved hand brushed across something hard under the mulch. There was a hedgehog, in a shallow depression it had made, curled up into its characteristic ball and fast asleep. I hoped that winter torpor would keep the hedgehogs safe for a while longer yet, and started to set the trap again.
I had no success the first few nights. Then I figured out what I’d been doing wrong (as detailed in my last post), and started to catch, in earnest, the pesky critters. I caught one and then, a couple of nights later, another. It had been reassuring to see that hedgehog snuggled up, but as a precaution I kept the trap well away from the compost heap.
Come spring, June’s question was designed to keep me on task: “I wonder how many more there are?” Code for: “Make sure you set the trap every night for a while longer yet!” So be it.
I baited it with one of our few remaining Sturmers, sliced a chunk out of one side to increase the scent it gave off and daubed the top with peanut butter. I also put some peanut butter on the bottom edge of the trap’s keyhole aperture, before liberally sprinkling cheap white flour around.
I placed the trap between the big Sturmer – the one that’s on the southern boundary of the vegetable garden – and the purple sprouting broccoli. Success: a full grown, ginger-brown female, and the trap had remained firmly anchored. Surely the immoveability of the structure contributed to a speedy death?
Fresh droppings on top of the trap made me suspect that another possum had visited that same night. The next night we heard a possum giving its ‘old man’ cackly kaa-ka-ka staccato call from somewhere close to the house.
Only the males sound like that. “Letting any females in the area know he’s looking for another mate,” June said. That’s the sad reality: I probably killed his mate.
June was worried about the young strawberry plants in the bed behind the native tree, shrub and tussock area which she looks out on from her west-facing studio window. So I set the trap near the strawberry bed: three consecutive nights without any sign that a possum had been near.
After the third night without success, I was intending, next day, to move the trap back to the green, leafy vegetable area of the garden. But I hadn’t got around to it. That night I caught a big male with dark brown fur.
The annoying thing was that he had eaten most of the leaves off several strawberry plants before he’d ventured to get at the apple and peanut butter bait. All that photosynthetic potential lost just as plant growth is poised to accelerate as winter moves into spring.
I didn’t catch any more until mid-summer, then I trapped three in quick succession in front of June’s studio. They’d been eating rock hard, long way from ripe nectarines off the tree up there.
That winter, spring and summer cull had netted eight possums. Reducing the population by eight gives me hope that I can maintain a tolerable measure of control over them from now on; there’s certainly been little possum damage so far this winter.
I’ve had the trap set for well over a week now without catching one. But I am confident that I’ll catch the pesky possums before they wreak havoc. After all, I now know how to set and secure the trap, bait it with tempting morsels, and disguise my scent. What could possibly go wrong?
End of story? Not likely! As June continues to remind me with variations on the question: “I wonder how many more there are?”
That’s all from Little Owl Gully till next Monday. Thanks for your company. Bye for now.