What Do Possums Eat

Possums are one of the quintessential Australian animals. It's not as iconic as the koala in the eyes of the world but it's far more accustomed to live among humans. Which is the bad news because they're also protected by the law. In fact, if you find your home invaded by a possum, it is illegal to do anything about it in most states. You need the help of a licensed possum catcher.

The good news is that possums don't make your roof their new home just for fun. There are certain aspects of the environment that make those spaces attractive to these mischievous marsupials. Things such as food. Hence, if you would like to avoid potential headaches, it might be a good idea to be in the know of what possums eat.

Possums are mostly herbivorous animals, which means the bulk (no pun intended) of their  diet is plant-based. Australian possums eat:

  • Leaves - just like koalas, possums are suckers for eucalyptus leaves. If there is no eucalyptus around, they settle for other plants, such as green plum, acacia, red bush apple, and more. Possums have an extremely low metabolism, so their caloric needs are easily met with simple plants; 
  • Fruit - leaves are all well and good, but possums sometimes love munching on some sweet, sweet fruit. Fruits are more caloric and allow them an easy source of energy, but they can easily become overweight which is why fruits are more of a cheat meal than a main course;
  • Vegetables - like fruit, possums can also eat veggies in relatively small quantities. 

Despite their image is completely harmless, cute, and sheltered, some possum species can be quite dangerous for animals around them. For example, brushtail possums enjoy deriving protein from bird eggs and small lizards.

Possums are protected because their populations have dwindled, but even so they are sometimes inadvertently harming other species. 

If you have a possum in your yard, it's illegal to remove it. This leaves you with three options:

  • Ignore it and hope it goes away - if the environment is beneficial for its existence, that will rarely happen;
  • Hire a possum control technician - licensed possum catchers are allowed to deal with possums. However, they cannot remove them further than 50 m from the place they were caught. Which means you need to do some proofing, otherwise it might return;
  • Learn to live with it - some people make sure possums in their yards have everything they need. This makes them relatively harmless. However, you still shouldn't feed possums. They are foragers and if you feed them, they will become dependent. They might not survive your vacation because of it. Becoming dependent makes them lazy and incapable of taking care of themselves.

If you're going to live with a possum in your yard (no, you can't keep it as a pet), make sure you spread the food around. Make them forage for it and keep the quantities small. Keep them working for it so they don't lose their ability to be independent. Place the food in high places so they have to climb for it. Ensure they have an easy escape route at all times in case they get chased by your pets or another animal. 

Sometimes people find orphaned possum joeys. Their first instinct is usually to pick them up, bring them home and feed them some cow milk, which is a huge mistake! Possums are lactose intolerant and joeys are especially vulnerable. If you want to save the life of a baby possum, consult with a vet and ask what type of formula you should get for it, depending on its development stage. There are a few specialized formulas on the market. 

Dangerous Foods

Since possums are protected, feeding them poison or foods that can harm them may be land you in hot water with the law. This includes:

Sweets - most animals are unable to eat the processed junk we enjoy munching on. Sweets contain enough processed ingredients that cannot be metabolized by possums' digestive tract. Feeding a possum cake is last meal and execution all in one. 

Junk food - read above. 

Raw meat - this one can backfire in so many ways. First off, possums are not carnivores so it would be illogical to assume they could process meat. As if that weren't enough (and it is), raw meat can often spread diseases which is why we usually cook it.