Coun­try Diary:

With coun­try liv­ing comes coun­try re­spon­si­bil­ity, and that’s not al­ways pleas­ant, as Wendyl Nis­sen dis­cov­ers.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

rein­ing in the ro­dents

Iwas in our tool­shed re­cently when I heard a rus­tle in the top right cor­ner. I looked up to see, through a hole in the ceil­ing, a very large, sleepy pos­sum glar­ing at me rather an­grily for wak­ing him up in the mid­dle of what must have been a nice warm sleep. I froze, then backed out very slowly be­fore slam­ming the door shut and run­ning back to the house.

I have a fear of pos­sums due to an in­ci­dent one night at my car­a­van in the Bay of Plenty. Years ago I used to es­cape to this car­a­van for a bit of “me” time, tak­ing our late hunt­away cross Shirl. One night we were walk­ing to the ablu­tion block when Shirl darted off into the bush. I as­sumed she had seen a rat or rab­bit mov­ing in there, but it turned out she was chas­ing some­thing else. As I watched in the moon­light, a large furry an­i­mal made its way across the grass in my di­rec­tion, with Shirl in hot pur­suit.

It came straight at me and be­fore I could say “pos­sum” it had climbed up my body and was sit­ting on my head. I didn’t have time to won­der how hi­lar­i­ous a woman with a pos­sum on her head must have looked. As the adrenalin kicked in, with one swift move­ment I grabbed the furry thing and hurled it onto the beach.

Shirl scram­bled af­ter it and re­turned about half an hour later with a big gash in her leg. I, mean­while, stum­bled off to the loo, had a ner­vous wee, then ran hell for leather back to the car­a­van and col­lapsed in a heap. For­tu­nately, I had been wear­ing py­ja­mas, so I didn’t get any scratches from the pos­sum’s no­to­ri­ously sharp claws. I rang my hus­band Paul back in Auck­land and blurted out the whole drama. He laughed his head off for a good five min­utes.

The next morn­ing, still in shock, I re­layed the sorry tale dur­ing the Fri­day morn­ing seg­ment on New­stalk ZB I did back then with the late Paul Holmes. Once he had stopped laugh­ing, he said, “It must have thought you were a big tree.”

“I may be tall,” I replied coolly, “but that’s where the sim­i­lar­ity to a tree ends.”

Then phone calls came flood­ing in from peo­ple say­ing pos­sums do in­deed look for the tallest thing when they are rush­ing from dan­ger.

Pos­sums are bad news for New Zealand’s wildlife and plants, ev­ery­one knows that, so the pos­sum in the shed was a warn­ing to me. When we moved to our coun­try prop­erty I whisked up all the poi­son bait sta­tions and got rid of them. I don’t agree with poi­son­ing wildlife. How­ever, I took my re­spon­si­bil­i­ties se­ri­ously and bought an ex­pen­sive gaspow­ered trap that would kill a pos­sum hu­manely. But it has been baited and ready for three years and never caught a pos­sum.

The night af­ter the shed dis­cov­ery, our dog Flo woke me up bark­ing her head off at 3am and stared de­ter­minedly out at the deck. I switched on the out­side light and there on the deck rail­ing was a pos­sum… with a baby on her back. Flo and I watched them for a good 20 min­utes as they twitched and sniffed, then I re­alised she might jump in our open bed­room win­dow so hastily slammed it shut, scar­ing her away.

“I can’t kill a mother in a trap and leave the baby help­less,” I moaned to Paul the next day as we were dis­cussing the likely need to up­grade our ex­pen­sive trap and in­vest in the cheaper, but re­li­able, yel­low Timms trap, which breaks their neck, killing them in­stantly.

“They’re a pest – you need to be re­spon­si­ble,” he said, putting on the stern voice he never re­ally means.

Then we had a visit from friends who had once killed a mother pos­sum and had to drown the baby – and still shud­dered at the mem­ory 10 years later.

So I did what any self-re­spect­ing, city-raised woman who finds her­self liv­ing in the coun­try does. I asked our lawn guy to kill them. To date, he has knocked off two in the shed and one in the or­chard. He didn’t say any­thing about a baby, so nei­ther did I.

But now, when I shut the hens up for the night, I set the Timms trap and hope there were only ever three pos­sums on the prop­erty.

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