‘Twas the first day of summer and on a hot and humid night I heard something outside, knocking about on the shed over the back fence. And lo, I saw that it was a possum, a brush-tailed possum (the commonest kind in Australia) which are common throughout urban centres here, being highly adaptable in their diet. It was the first time since we’d moved here that I had seen one.
I called my wife who was delighted to see the little cutie, and she brought it a banana, threw pieces to it. I was afraid that I might scare it off with the flash of my camera but it didn’t seem perturbed at all.
It was so unperturbed that it eventually came down onto the table by the fence and happily accepted more banana. It even allowed us to stroke it while it ate. I could see that it was a young male, probably not that long away from it’s mother’s side.
When I first moved to Sydney from Perth, I lived in Kings Cross. I was very surprised when I saw a possum on the balcony and it was very happy to accept offers of food. It was the local matriarch and while I was there she had two babies. The second one became very accustomed to me and while it’s mother sat on my lap to eat, the baby would sit on my shoulder. And I have had many occasions in the past to feed possums in parks at night.
Being that hot and humid night, as I have said, I wasn’t wearing a t-shirt or shirt. The possum was very accepting of my presence and I brought the camera closer and closer for photos. On it’s second banana, as I squatted close to it, it took an interest in my camera and grabbed hold of it. These animals are strong tree climbers, with strong muscles and sharp, grappling claws. But I was stronger and managed to wrestle my camera back, unharmed. They also have powerful, jumping back legs and I was totally unprepared for it to leap on me (too see what I was about, I guess) and it’s claws dug deep into my arm to hold on. As I tried to shake it off, it tried to stay on. But human flesh is not as tough as a tree trunk and it’s grip loosened. He ran away, climbing over the fence and into another yard.
So when you see people photographing lions in the Serengeti, Leopard Seals in the Antarctic or Grizzly Bears in North America, remember this: they say most accidents happen in the home. This may include maulings by cute, furry marsupials.
Actually, the scratches don’t hurt so much, but the tetanus shot I had at the hospital feels like someone punched me really hard in the arm.