A possum is any of about 25 small to medium-sized arboreal marsupials native to Australia. more...
The name derives from their resemblance to the opossums of the Americas and, unlike most names applied to Australian fauna in the early years of European colonisation, happens to be accurate: the opossums of America are distant relatives. (The name is from Algonquian wapathemwa, not Greek or Latin, so the plural is possums, not *possa.) Possum is also used in North America as a diminutive for the Virginia opossum.
Possums are small marsupials with brown or grey fur, ranging in size from the length of a finger (pygmy possums and sugar gliders), to the length of a forearm (brushtails and ringtails). All possums are nocturnal and omnivorous, hiding in a nest in a hollow tree during the day and coming out during the night to forage for food. They fill much the same role in the Australian ecosystem that squirrels fill in the northern hemisphere and are broadly similar in appearance.
The two most common species of possums, the Common Brushtail and Common Ringtail, are also among the largest.
The possum has few major native predators, with the possible exception of the Powerful Owl, Wedgetail Eagle and possibly Spotted Quolls preying on younger possums and ringtails. Before their extinction on the Australian mainland, the possum may well have had natural predators in the thylacine, thylaceo and Tasmanian Devil.
The feral cat, wild dog, dingo and introduced fox may also prey on possums in the wild.
Interaction with humans
The animal has been a part of Australian culture and folklore since the original indigenous inhabitants of the country. Indigenous Australians once used possum hides whilst playing the traditional game of Marn Grook, whilst in modern times, the phrase "Hello possums!" made famous by satirist Barry Humphries' character Dame Edna Everage has become a celebrated catchphrase.
Possums are commonly found in suburban areas, where they are often considered pests owing to their habit of eating fruit, vegetables, flowers and tender young shoots from gardens, and nesting in roofs. The loud hissing, crackling territorial call of the male Common Brushtail may also be a problem for suburban residents. Natural deterrents which play upon the possum's acute sense of smell are often employed to discourage them. These include cloves of garlic, camphor or naphthalene. As a native species possums are protected by regulations, even when they reside in urban neighbourhoods, and cannot be baited. They cannot be killed as pests, and if captured the regulations stipulate that they must be released within a small radius of that locality, since they are territorial creatures. Preventative measures such as blocking off their access to the roof spaces or building a possum nesting box for an alternative home are instead recommended.
Read more at Wikipedia.org