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We're coming for about 4 months of summer tramping, and I've got a few specific possum questions: 1) we'll be tenting most of the time. At night, if we've left food in our packs, under the tent vestibules, will the possums come barging in & try to tear/rip/dismantle the tent and/or packs to get to it? How brazen are they as far as rummaging around an occupied tent? 2) Is rabies a problem? How nocturnal are they -- if I see one during the day should I assume it may be rabid & give it a wide berth? 3) If we're taking a day hike from "base camp", do I need to strike the tent completely in order to avoid daytime invasion & destruction? Or just flatten the tent? Or is this not a problem at all? Thanks for any advice...
Possums are nocturnal and there is no rabies. Possums browse in the trees so aren't likely to be interested in your camp site. The classic story is not to kick a possum because their reflex is to climb and it isn't intelligent enough to destinguish you from a tree. But I have never heard of that happening to anyone. In most areas of high conservation value there are poisoning programs to get rid of possums so they are less a problem there. If you see a possum, kill it. They are the no 1 pest here.
Definitely no rabies in NZ. In possums or dogs. We have had them come under our tent fly, but in my experience they don't really damage packs - the trouble was more that the noise drives you crazy when you're trying to sleep. Though they left some tooth marks in my jandals. They are not a problem during the day your tent will be fine then.
Well I've heard several stories of them chomping through heavy packs if they think food is inside, including someone I know recently... or perhaps it was rats on that occasion, which are also an introduced pest problem and which I think are known to chew through things. I'm not really sure. Do possums just forage, or do they chew? Beware of rats in any case, especially around huts and campsites to which they might be attracted by other food-scraps people have left behind. I do my best to seal food before packing it away on the assumption that this might reduce their ability to detect it. I don't know how effective this is but I've been generally lucky except for one occasion 3 years ago when a rat chewed through a ziplock bag overnight with some scroggin. I also try to keep things close overnight, so I'm more likely to wake up with anything rummaging nearby. I suppose the good news is that since these animals are generally nocturnal, they're less likely to forage through someone's things during the day. If trtlrock goes our for a day-walk, gear left behind is probably reasonably safe. Honestly as pmcke has said, if you're in New Zealand and you spot a possum in the night, the best thing you could do is shine a torch in its eyes (to stun it), and then whack it hard with something to kill it, or line it up in headlights and flatten it. This is sometimes difficult since they're cute furry animals, but once you see the total devestation they cause in New Zealand it's a completely different thing.
I just learnt something about possums the other day. I was staying with a mate in Whangarei who has quite a large property. His dog finds the possums and bails them in a tree and barks He goes out and shoots it with a shot gun. In the old days when you would shine a torch at a possum it would look at you and you would see the light reflecting in its eyes. He says that nowaways that never happens, the possum will not look at you and will sit in the tree looking away from you making it harder to shoot. Now there is natural selection in process. I suspect the case above where packs etc were nibbled was rats rather than possums. I don't think there is much in your pack that would interest a possum, as has been said, the noise is alarming if they wander too close to your camp. Also I have to add that it is unusual for rats to be a problem around most of the actively maintained DOC huts. The block of rat bait under the bunk is pretty standard when DOC staff do hut checks these days.
Just to clear up my grammer. He shoots the possum, not the dog.
Storing food in bags in your pack is the best way to keep it from getting eaten, never had my pack eaten through. Only ever seen 3 live possums in my journeys. Lots of sign around these days due to mating season (fur on the ground due to fighting) They only come out at night and mostly they have been eradicated.
I've seen a few of them over time, including one at Rangiwahia Hut (Ruahines) that was climbing up the drainpipe when someone shone a torch at it and it stopped dead (trying to be camouflaged I guess) for everyone to come out and stare at it.
Possums are nothing to worry about, they are quite scared of people. Rats can be a problem, especially on Stewart island where there is few predators to keep their numbers down. What you really have to be concerned about are the Kiwis, they have been known to get into peoples tents at night and start attacking them with their long beaks and powerful claws... Can be quite frightening waken up to a frenzied attack by one of them. Happens quite often below the bush line... They are a Iconic bird so many people deny how aggreesive they really are.
I think you should find a tape/cd/wav file or something of "Epic Possum Death Scrap" - think cats on meth battling to death while demonically possessed. That's the only thing about possums that will give you the sh*ts. Hahaa... Maybe try desensitizing yourself to the noise?
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