continuing the wild and wacky adventures of wildlife carers…


Part of the extensive garden. Sometimes, I actually had roses!

We were not to know,  when Spike had that disagreement with another possum, that we were about to be gate-crashed.

Spike left us early in December and although we half-expected him to come back from time to time, we were not surprised that he didn’t. Nature’s hard-wiring usually beats human “interference.”

Besides, there were other things needing attention. With  holidays looming, the duty roster (we took turns to answer after-hours calls for help) suddenly featured our telephone number more often! And The Man’s mother was coming to stay. I didn’t want calls at all hours while she was here so I did extra time beforehand.

And there was some re-arranging of the spare/sewing/writing/junk room to be done.

Everything ordered and slotting nicely into place, yes? Well, not quite…

When we built the house we stopped  the walls of the central hallway about 18″ short of the rafters (open-plan with exposed ceiling beams), to allow for greater air flow. And to be a bit “different” from most other houses!

Biskit, one of the cats, used to like sleeping on a shelf above the water heater in the bathroom and, from there , she could climb onto the top of the wall and swing from rafter to rafter til she reached the kitchen. Then she’d jump down to the fridge, then the counter, then the floor. Until one day she mis-judged her swing and fell from the ceiling! So The Man added an “extension” piece of rafter, making it too far for her to stretch her paw around. Boy! was she cross at that!

Where was I?  Oh yes…On the opposite side of the hall was the spare room, with a built-in cupboard. Open at the top. And this is the cupboard that was to become the home of our next possum.

At night, with mosquitoes and other bugs bothering us, we closed the doors when the lights were on and opened a back door at lights-out.

Jolly convenient for the New Boy! He’d rock up at about 4am, scrabble around in the kitchen and wake me. I’d grab him by the tail* and take him down the yard, into the goats’ paddock and tell him to “go find a hollow tree!”

And he’d be back up at the house before me!

One morning, after this ridiculous ritual, he went up the wall and over the edge and into the spare room cupboard before I could catch him. I could see the little bugger on the top shelf, blinking at me! And he used the Biskit Method of getting to the kitchen, much to her disgust!

I’d had enough of 4am possum patrols. As far as I was concerned he could stay there. Anyone who wanted to evict him could do it with my blessing. But not my help.

And then Mother arrived and I had to explain that she’d have a room mate. I think she was a bit nervous at first and afraid room mate might mean bedmate!

Sooty Paws (I’ll leave you to figure out how he got that name!) lived with us for about 7 years. Longer than many survive in the wild.

2008_1218oldiestamborine0010The front pergola – aka Possum Highway

* This is not cruel; possums evolved for a life in trees and the muscular tail is used for grasping, swinging, balance. Also, you’re clear of those sharp bits when you are holding the tail!


… not so very long ago and not in a galaxy far, far away, there lived  a couple of slightly- wacky-but-kind-hearted people. They rubbed along well enough with their fellows, but were most happy when surrounded by or working with animals.

They were  concerned for orphaned or injured animals, especially non-mainstream species.

Animals like owls

2008_1218oldiestamborine00011Five young Barn Owls

and snakes

2008_1218oldiestamborine0004a carpet snake

and possums2008_1218oldiestamborine00021“Spike” eating left-over salad that otherwise would have gone to the chooks.

With a particular interest in raptors, they learned  (from Wildlife Rangers, veterinarians and other rescue people) appropriate handling methods. They attended lectures, built suitable housing, bred suitable food species  and rehabilitated as many of their charges as was possible.

Sometimes, of course, rehabilitation is not possible. In such cases, some animals went into captive breeding programmes at a registered sanctuary. Many died. Many were euthanased.

But the biggest blast was always Release Time. You can keep your speed, your uppers, your booze. Give me the sight of an eagle, soaring aloft on a thermal to freedom and I’m riding my own joyous thermal. Every time.

Over the years, we lost a few hours of sleep, went through mega litres of petrol and became pretty good at mending literal and metaphorical fences.

As you see, these are old photographs (heck! I don’t think digital technology was even off the drawing board then!) so you may need a hand lens.

A cardinal rule in the rehab game is that wild animals should NEVER be considered as pets. Sadly, a rule often ignored by some people. But before you ask why that possum is happily scoffing salad while sitting on a sofa with The Man, let me explain that possums themselves are quick to ignore cardinal rules!

Omnivorous, gregarious and very quick to accept humans and the associated “goodies” derived from human co- habitation, many  possums have, quicker than any other  native, become tame.

Spike was one of the resident possums at a neighbours’ property. The neighbours found him one night, on the ground, with no sign of his mother. But they waited, watching from a darkened doorway, in case Momma appeared. When it was apparent that this was not going to happen they brought the little chap indoors, fed him diluted cow’s milk from an eye dropper, tucked him into a woollen beanie and called us.

Over the next few months, Spike gave us endless enjoyment and laughs a-plenty. The resident cats accepted him (although they growled if he stole from their bowls!) and he was too young (ie, not yet sexually mature) to bother the bigger possums that hissed and growled and scritched through the trees at night.


Small Cat, Sammy and Spike

Gradually, he ventured further, stayed out longer each night and we knew he would soon leave us for his real home in the bush.

One night, just after dusk, when he’d been outside for maybe 15 minutes, there was a great scrabbling and hks-hks-hks-ing (that’s possum talk for “look out, buster!” at the back door. In came, we thought, Spike.  Followed by… Spike??  Oh **#!^&! Two possums in the house equates to WW  III!  The Man lunged at one (which, fortunately for The Man’s flesh, was Spike) and I grabbed the second fluffy tail as it was racing up the curtains.Now with a possum apiece, we had to make some pretty quick decisions. Right decisions!

“Hang on to Spike and I’ll get this one outside.” You really had to be there to appreciate the comedic  enormity, folks. Possums have formidable array of weaponry, not least the ability to pee copiously.

But I managed to get the intruder outside, and released on a tree trunk while The Man managed to hang on to his “catch.”

Spike was desperate to get back outside and finish the contest, but a carrot and a piece of apple held his attention long enough to settle him.

The next night he went outside  just after dusk, as usual… and never came back.*

to be continued…


With the moon still big and bright enough to warrant braving the Night Squadron [of mosquitoes], I took the camera out twice last night. By the time I got to the gate the first time, clouds had sailed in front of  the moon. I waited for a few minutes, then, afraid of dropping the camera in my wild flailing, gave up.

So I curled up on a sofa and watched Hustle Ooh! If I wasn’t a” woman of mature age” I could see myself with that Mickey! Sadly, I’m more in Albert’s age bracket…

Where was I?…oh, yes! The moon…well, I was still waiting for Rusty to come in for the night so I thought another walk down the driveway was worthwhile. Wouldn’t you know — just as the moon, all gold-tinged and satiny, came from behind the cloud and I had a chance –three (count them! THREE!) neighbours switched on floodlights. I gave up.


*We did see him again – he’d returned to our neighbours’ property and was happily being a wild possum in their garden. How do we know it was Spike? We were having a glass of wine with B & M one evening and one of the possums sat at the edge of the shrubbery, looking at us. So I whistled; the “official whistle” I always use for the cats and dogs. The possum raced across the paving and leapt up onto my shoulder. Spike!