This is a guest post from Natalie Nicholson. Thank you, Natalie, for your great story and photos!
Here are some photos of our pygmy possums and a quick story of how we came to meet our cool little neighbours.
We live just north of Katanning and count ourselves incredibly lucky to have these darling creatures living in such close proximity to our house.
Western pygmy possums have been comfortably living in our timber cubby for about 6 months. We first noticed one when I saw a mouse-sized animal scurry across the cubby. It climbed the wall (not something a mouse would do!) then sat in the rafters and peered at us. It was then that I knew it was a western pygmy possum (Cercartetus concinnus), only about 7cm long, large dark eyes, light brown fur and white below and a wonderful prehensile tail. Just as we were watching the adult, a baby western pygmy possum followed it’s parent up to the rafters!
We didn’t see them often and weren’t sure where they’d made their nest in the cubby but were always careful to be quiet in the cubby and keep our pets away from the area.
A few months later we were doing some building in our garden and the cubby had to be shifted. We hadn’t seen the possums for a while but thought we would set a trap in case any were around before the big move. I used an old Elliot trap and in the early morning checked the trap finding one beautiful possum.
We kept it safely in a large white bucket until all the furniture was shifted out of the cubby. In cleaning out the cubby I had to remove all the sheep bones and skulls that young farm boys tend to collect and put on shelves in cubbies! When a picked up a skull something shuffled inside…I had found another possum! I checked the other skulls and found the baby possum too!! Apparently western pygmy possums fit quite snugly inside the foramen magnum, or the hole at the base of the skull where the spinal cord goes to the brain! All the skull bones had a delicate nest of fine eucalypt leaves just inside the cavity.
All 3 possums were kept safe during the big cubby move (being nocturnal, they slept undisturbed for most of the day). When I set up the cubby I placed all the skulls back on the shelves (much to my dismay, as now my cubby clean-out wasn’t going quite to plan!). We placed a few branches inside the cubby as well as outside on the rafters to make them feel at home. I also strung up a line between the cubby and new trees so they could find their way to their feeding tress without having to go on the ground.
The next day on sunset we released the possums into their new cubby site. They were very inquisitive and chose to scurry up the boys arms rather than run away! Within one day they had rebuilt their nests and seemed quite content with their new cubby position.
We make sure the cubby is still a quiet, safe place for these possums. Even though the boys play in there often, they are mindful of the three precious western pygmy possums tucked up in their nests , inside sheep skulls, on the shelf!
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Author: Andrea Salmond
Andrea has been with Katanning Landcare since 2013 and is passionate about equipping people with the tools, skills and resources they need to make positive changes to our environment.