I had the very exciting opportunity to meet a possum hunter this week. I’m afraid he probably now has the impression I’m a rabid possum fanatic, because I quizzed him mercilessly about possums and his hunting activities.
I found out some very interesting facts. Did you know that:
- In a single “session” over a couple of weeks, a hunter can trap up to 1,000 possums in one block of land?
- A mother (doe) will adopt a baby (kitten) where its mother has died? It’s apparently not uncommon for a hunter to find a doe with two kittens both of different sizes.
- Possums love marzipan. It’s great bait. It useful because it smells like cyanide – which substitutes for the marzipan in random bait stations so that the possum takes it willingly, not immediately associating a bait station with death.
- Possums will run up to 10kms a night in search of food. So the possum in your garden may very well have come from very far away, just to feast on a particularly succulent fruit or flower in your garden (my rose bushes…!!)
- Possum fur varies in quality. When I met him, this hunter had a possum laid out ready to skin that had particularly beautiful fur. (Good quality skins attract a higher value than plucked fur). I have never seen such long, thick, luxuriant fur on a possum. This possum’s fur was at least twice as long and thick as the fur I’ve harvested from possums trapped in my garden. Not that I’m about to start skinning them. I think that’s a reach too far for me.
- Possums make good eating. They have white meat, with a taste somewhere between chicken and pork. The best ones to eat are the ones that have ingested cyanide. It kills them instantly, and the meat is tender and tastes good. Possums that have suffered in traps are not nice to eat. Makes one think about what lamb/beef/pork would taste like if the animal had died a stress-free death. (I did ask, slightly taken aback, whether the cyanide would perhaps not be good for one’s health? But I’m told that once it’s activated (as in, having already killed an animal) it is harmless. Don’t quote me on that, but this hunter has eaten plenty, and is still alive and kicking, so I guess he is right!)
- The most sought-after possum fur by a furrier is dark, chocolate-brown.
- If you want to get the most fur off a possum, you do need to pluck it when the body is still hot. Apparently, you can get all its fur off that way, and it comes off very easily in big handfuls. Well, maybe so, but I am still not going to spring out of bed at 2am when the trap goes off. It’s bad enough plucking them when they’re cold. I have to poke it with my boot to make sure it’s well and truly dead before I even attempt to get it out of the trap.
- It takes 3 ½ minutes for a hunter to pluck a possum by hand. Hmm. Must improve my technique.
And finally, a tit-bit from me:
Possums are very clever. They’ve worked out a way to spring my trap and eat the fruit in it without being caught. It must go something like this:
“Alright Joe. Bob went and put his head in that box over there last night and something went “Bang!” and he got dead. Why don’t you try it and see what happens? There’s some great smelling fruit in there.”
“Aw, I dunno Jack. I don’t like my chances of getting my head stuck in there!”
“That fruit smells mighty good though…”
“Well, what say I poke it first with this stick here and see what happens?”
“Crickey! That was a bl…dy big bang! Now you try to see if you can get that apple out.”
“Hmm! Good trick Joe! Let’s do that again tomorrow night!”
I’m not happy. The little b#%@&rs!
Small disclaimer: I may not have the above information precisely and entirely right. I wasn’t taking notes. But it was basically what I was told.