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Updated 12 January 2018 4:17pm

Trichosurus vulpecula
Crown copyright, DOC

Why are possums a problem?

Because of their feeding habits, possums pose a serious threat to the biodiversity of the Wellington region. Possum browse damages mature and seedling native trees by eating leaves, shoots, berries and flowers, killing vegetation and depriving native species of food and habitat. Possums also eat the eggs and young of native birds.

Possums pose a threat to agriculture by grazing pasture and crops and serving as a major vector for bovine Tb, which threatens New Zealand’s export cattle, deer and dairy industries. Possums eat millions of dollars worth of pasture each year, and damage commercial forestry, orchards, land management plantings and horticultural crops.

Possums are a nuisance species around domestic properties, eating garden plants and fruit trees and inhabiting sheds and roof spaces.

Description and background

Possums are a small nocturnal marsupial with a sharp face, pointed ears and a distinctive bushy tail. Colouration is typically grey, black or brown with a light under-belly. Possums make a loud rasping call at night. They are omnivorous feeders, both browsing vegetation and predating on wildlife. Damaged vegetation, flowers, vegetables and fruit and the presence of long thin droppings on the ground and fences is often an indication of possums.

Possums were first released in New Zealand in the 1830s to establish a fur industry. The first release in the Wellington region was at Featherston in 1872. By the 1900s possums were well established throughout much of New Zealand, including the Wellington region. Possums inhabit a range of areas including forest, farmland, parks, gardens and buildings.

Greater Wellington, Tb Free and the Department of Conservation undertake extensive possum control operations for bovine Tb and biodiversity purposes in the Wellington region. Approximately 650,000ha of the region currently receives possum control through the:

• Animal Health Board’s National Pest Management Strategy for Bovine Tuberculosis

• Department of Conservation’s possum control programmes

• Greater Wellington’s control programmes on its own estate, eg regional parks

• Greater Wellington’s Key Native Ecosystem and Reserves Management programmes

• Individual occupier possum control programmes for ecological health, production, or land sustainability.

What can I do?

Trapping, poisoning and nightshooting are the most effective means of controlling possums.

A range of traps are available on the commercial market. Kill traps can be purchased from farm supply stores or Greater Wellington. Live capture cage traps require access to a firearm to humanely dispatch the possum.

Poison and bait stations can be purchased from farm supply stores or Greater Wellington and placed on trees or fences on your property. Regular baiting will keep possum numbers at low levels.

Nightshooting for possums is a good control option in open farmland or on rural properties. A .22 rifle or shotgun and a spotlight are an effective means of control if shooting is regularly undertaken.

If your property is adjacent to or near an existing possum control operation contact Greater Wellington to see if your property can be added to the control area.

Additional information can be found at –

Landcare Research Possums

Department of Conservation (DOC) Possums

TbFree Newsletter 

Tbfree website

National Pest Control Agency (NPCA) Best Practice Guidelines

Vertebrate Pest Control