A beautiful mother possum and her baby
I moved into country Tasmania two years ago, into a small cottage on a large property. There is a large beautiful oak tree just behind and shading my cottage. I realised that a small family of brush possums lived in the oak tree. Gradually as I got to know them, I began to like them more and more. At night, when I went outside for fresh air and to be under the stars, I occasionally spotted them, especially in the autumn, foraging for acorns, which they patently loved. They would eat them quite delicately with their front paws, peeling the outer dry skin of the acorn, to reveal the nut inside, which they ate also delicately.
There were about three or four in this group, an older male who appeared to have one shortened slightly damaged front leg, and an adult female with maybe an older offspring. The older male and female were a beautiful grey with darker markings and a dark brown tail, and the offspring were pure dark brown.
I looked on the internet for food that possums liked, as the winters here are quite cold and there is not a lot of food about, the deciduous trees lose their leaves, there is no fruit about, and the acorns run out. I started to collect a few plastic bags of acorns from oak trees in the city parks and bring them home, to place them in small plastic dishes for the possums in the winter. They came down to a 5 ft tall old brick barbecue structure which was no longer in use. I loved to watch them eat cut up apple and acorns.
I also read that they loved rolled oats and raisins, which I also bought and put out at night for the possums.
This year I became even more appreciative and fond of the possums. In the winter the mother had become pregnant again, and I observed her abdomen become larger and larger. She still cuddled up with her previous year's offspring during the day's sleeping hours in the large wooden box with an opening lid which sat high in an old stable.
I loved to watch her emerge with her baby from the stable, walk along the stable roof and then jump on to a branch of the oak tree and the baby followed, as they progressed up the branches of the oak tree. When the new baby finally emerged from her pouch to ride on her back, for quite a while she would not come down from the high branches to eat at the barbecue. She seemed very protective of the new baby, and I really could see her point. For there were two border collies living on the property who were very friendly to me, but they loved to bark at the possums when they walked on the roof or jumped into the tree. However, I believed that the mother was very very cautious. I always saw her look around very carefully when she came down from the roof with her baby to have some rolled oats.
I could write a lot more, however I guess I need to write that this week I found the mother dead on the floor of the stable. I had been very concerned for a couple of days, as I had not seen her at night, and I had walked around the property with a flashlight to the places where I had seen her. I cried as I buried her in a place in the garden near the stable. I placed roses on the grave. This may sound very sentimental for what is after all a native animal, not a pet. However she had brought a great deal of happiness and beauty into my life and new experiences that I had not enjoyed in the city, even though when I owned a house there, a possum had lived in my roof space and had enjoyed the wild apples on my Lady In the Snow apple tree on the edge of my property and the road.
Today, I found her baby dead on the ground near my house. It had slept in my cat's basket in a shed for two nights, and I had found spots of dry blood on the bedding, which I had washed. I cried again as I buried the baby near its mother, and picked some roses and pansies to place on the soil.
I had buried a number of pets previously, and had taken my mother's and aunt's loved old dogs to the vets to be euthanised when they were very old and ill. However, this loss was as great as that I experienced when my beloved dog Mac had died 4 years ago.