THE POSSUM PROBLEM
Possums are everywhere. You may not think they are there but they’re just very good hiders. Bush, farms, parks, maybe even in your gardens. These are just some of the places you could possibly find them. These furry marsupials are nocturnal and can be found in their dry, hidden dens during the day. Did you know that European Settlers originally brought possums into New Zealand for their amusement and to hunt them down for their fur? That was not a good idea as now there are millions of possums all over New Zealand that thrive due to lack of predators. Many people consider these omnivores pests as they eat the foliage (rātā, kāmahi) that native creatures need to survive. As well as that, they also devour native creatures such as birds, bats, insects, lizards etc.
Possums are completely changing our forests (not to mention the food chain!)
These days, the Regional Council, Department of Conservation and many other groups are working together to decrease the population. People use an array of techniques such as shooting, traps, poison - to name a few - so they could eliminate the amount of possums living here.
Did you know how possums were introduced to New Zealand? Well, prior to 1837, in NZ, there were no animals for hunters to chase down. Hunters in Australia made good money selling fur and NZ hunters wanted that opportunity so they shipped tons of possums in for the fur trading economy. At that time, they thought it would be a good idea. While all this was happening, the Acclimatization Society brought deer in for sport, horses for transport etc. to help with trade. Years later, in 1917, possums started causing trouble. European settlers didn’t notice problems that possums caused to the forest but they did notice fruit trees getting ruined. The use of poison was also introduced at that time.
3 years later, in the 1920’s, people were fighting for the right to kill possums as the environment was getting worse and worse thanks to them. Australia was a very harsh environment and it was very hard for possums to maintain a steady diet but when they arrived in NZ, all the foods they liked was in bulk. It was an easy environment therefore they started causing major problems. Later on, in 1947, the government finally removed restrictions so people could finally use poison to kill possums. Meanwhile, the government themselves hatched their own plans to remove possums. Later on in the 1960’s another disaster struck. No one knew until it was too late, possums were carrying Bovine Tuberculosis which they got from infected cattle. Somehow they infected cows and billions of them died. Farmers had to pay millions of dollars to cover the funds.
Now there aren’t as many possums than before but there are still a lot of them. If we can work together to create eco-friendly possum traps, I think we’ll all be happy!!!