What to do if there’s a possum in your roof

Do you have a furry housemate you’d like to evict? Here are four simple and gentle ways to move them along.

Possums are regular visitors to South Australian gardens, especially common brushtail and common ringtail possums.

Both are nocturnal, but brushtail possums are about the size of a cat, with bushy black tails, thick grey fur and large ears, while ringtails are also grey, but are smaller, with small ears, and skinny, white-tipped tails.

Brushtails favour big old gum trees with hollows to nest in, but these are becoming few and far between, forcing them to look for alternative accommodation – and that may mean your roof.

Ringtails also nest in trees, but unlike brushtails they don’t usually like sheltering in your roof. 

How do you know if there is a possum in your roof?

Being nocturnal, possums are generally most active at night.

The usual signs of having a possum in the roof are heavy bangs on the ceiling or roof at night as they run around, hissing and coughing noises coming from your roof, or stains on your ceiling or a strong ammonia smell caused by their urine.

What can you do if there is a possum in your roof?

All species of possums are protected in SA, so if you need to get one out of your roof, you must do it humanely and have the appropriate permits – or check that your pest controller has them.

There are several options, but denying possums access to your roof space is vital to all of them.

Buy or build a possum box

Buy or build a possum box or two, and put it in a sheltered spot in your garden at least 4 m off the ground.

Check the boxes regularly to make sure that bees, wasps or pest birds such as starlings haven’t taken up residence.

Possums are naturally inquisitive and will explore their territory, but putting a piece of fruit on or near the nest box to make it more attractive will help the possums find it.

Bear in mind though, this method will not work unless you also possum-proof your roof. Which brings us to our next point:

Secure the roof so possums can’t get in

Securing your roof is an essential step. Blocking all access points to the roof will ensure that possums can’t get in your roof in the first place or re-enter after they’ve visited before.

Look carefully for any gaps or holes around the eaves, then wait until dark. When you see the possum leaving the roof, block the gap with wood or chicken mesh.

Install a one-way door in your roof

If you’re struggling to see when the possums are leaving the roof or if you’re concerned that one will be left behind and become trapped, a pest controller will be able to advise on how to install a one-way door that will let the possums out but not back in.

Get a permit for a possum trap

The first thing to note here is that trapping possums requires a Trap and Release Protected Wildlife permit.

Many councils have wire mesh possum traps you can rent. Put the trap in the roof near the possum’s access point and check it every morning.

If you catch a possum, you must release it within 24 hours and it must be at night.

Remove the trap from the roof, put it in an area of your house that is quiet and cool, and cover it with an old towel or blanket to keep the light out.

During the day, make sure you block all access points to the roof, or the possum will return. At sunset, release the possum on your own property no more than 50 m from where it was caught.

If you’re still having trouble getting rid of a possum after trying these options, it’s time to contact a licensed pest controller.

For more information, check out our Living with Wildlife resources.

(Image courtesy of Peter Canty)

This story was originally posted in June 2017.

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