Saturday 24 September 2016

Update 24th Sept 2016

All of the ringtails - Ruby, Koji, Keeta, Wasabi, Maple and possibly Clover - have been seen recently and are in good health. The brushtails are also doing alright, except for a painful problem for Mischa which is fortunately now resolved. I'll get to this later.

Ruby, Koji and Keeta (bottom to top) - 20th Sept 2016

The ringtails are seen together in different combinations. It is never clear who will be visiting at any given time. It does seem that Maple (and possibly Clover; sometimes they don't come close and it's difficult to tell them apart) is doing child-minding duty from time to time.

Here are some photos of the two babies together.

Keeta (left) and Koji (right) - 8th Sept 2016

Keeta (left) and Koji (right) - 12th Sept 2016

Although Koji is the slightly bolder of Ruby's babies, both are very brave and will accept food from humans. Here is Koji holding onto a feeding stick.

Keeta - 9th Sept 2016

I should probably explain about this. When feeding a very small possum, it's probably best to only give tiny morsels of food. This is particularly the case with ringtails which have a more sensitive digestive system. It can be difficult to hold a small piece of food in such a way that a possum can get at it without accidentally biting or clawing your fingers. Also, some possums may be hesitant to approach too close to a human hand which might be bigger than they are.

Therefore we often skewer the food onto an ice-cream stick which has been whittled to a blunt point. It's easier to get at and less intimidating for the possum, and safer for the human, especially with brushtails who (due to fear, or simply being in a bad mood) will sometimes swipe with their claws at food items.

[By the way, a number of web sites claim that ringtails must never be fed fruit. These are simply wrong. According to Australian Mammals, Biology and Captive Management [Jackson 2003], fruits form a legitimate - and recommended - part of the diet of a ringtail. The problem comes when a ringtail being hand-reared is fed excessive fruit - this is a genuine concern but is really only applicable to captive possums with restricted access to natural foods. Feeding small quantities of fruit on an occasional basis to wild-living ringtails is a very different thing.]

In the brushtail world, Farley is still around and visits fairly frequently. Toto hasn't been seen for a while. When last seen she had a tiny baby in her pouch. I am hoping she has found a nesting spot out of the reach of Sasha where she can raise her baby in relative safety.

Sasha and Mischa visit regularly. You can usually see them sleeping in boxes 4 or 7 during the day, however a few times recently they have chosen to sleep on top of Box 7. This box is in a dark corner of the garage and the top of the box is just below the ceiling, so it's still a fairly good sleeping spot. Interestingly, the box temperature sensor is sensitive enough to pick up a possum sleeping on top of the box.


Sasha is doing alright, but poor little Mischa managed to have a tick attach itself inside his right eye-lid. This is quite possibly the worst place to get a tick and must have been incredibly painful. We weren't able to get many pictures of him because Sasha was being unusually protective of him and would take him away whenever a camera appeared.

Here is the only photo we have showing the tick attached. It grew even bigger than this.

Mischa, with tick in eye, back-riding on Sasha - 25th Aug 2016 [Photo by Xesce]

Zooming in...

When the wretched thing eventually dropped off, the eyeball looked in very bad shape, however our experience with Queek (See Poked in the Eye) indicated that it would slowly get better over time and there would probably be little long-term damage.

Mischa's injured eyeball - 7th Sept 2016

It's now looking much better.

Mischa's injured eyeball - 24th Sept 2016


  1. Ticks are beyond vile, the way they seek out eyes and eyelids, and even open wounds on possums. Hate them!

  2. I agree, I personally know what they feel as I had a tick in my tearduct that sent me to hospital, my face swelled up that I was unrecognisable and put on a course of steroids for the very first time in my life that also gave me side effects... I hate ticks!

  3. Wow! I feel less guilty now giving my ringtails a little fruit now and then after reading your article.
    My heavy duty dreys are a success, one is home to three little baby ringtails plus their older sister and mum. The other one the father at the moment has all to himself.
    I so wish I could share the short videos with you.
    The baby ringtails come out after the Kookaburras sing, they are loving the new spring foliage on all the native trees, they are adorable and very independent but all keep close together.
    Couldn't imagine living without the wildlife, everything I plant in my garden is always for the wildlife, the word is out and they are moving in.

    1. The baby ringtails are so cute and they can be incredibly energetic leaping around in the trees at times. :)

      Our ringtails have built a couple of dreys in a Bauhinia and at one stage had a drey in a Golden Wattle. I think at the moment they live in a neighbour's palm tree. They seem to have plaited the leaves of a frond together to form a large tunnel-like drey.

      I'd be interested to know more details about your dreys. I think you mentioned something before about putting a plastic pot on its side with timber palings on the front. How big? How high up?

      The thing is that I've never managed to build a box/drey that ringtails really like and I'd love to be able to add a couple of Ringtail Drey cameras to Possum TV.

      I originally built Box 2 to (what I had read were) the specifications for a ringtail box, but it wasn't a success. It's been up over 10 years, but was only used by ringtails (Gumdrop and her babies) for a couple years; then Gumdrop and one of her babies got eaten by a python in that same box and after that the ringtails have understandably kept clear of it. I tried putting two coconut fibre lined planters together to form a ball for Wasabi when he was undergoing treatment for an infection, but he ignored it and preferred to sleep on an exposed shelf in his enclosure.

  4. Hi
    I have to say, I also tried all what I read from a book, and not one ringtail was interested in box or coconut fibre lined planters, my coconut lined ball drey was favoured by a young male brushtail possum over summer, his tail was sticking out of the entrance hole and that was when I knew he was resting belly up, possibly liked the hammock feel about it. Sad thing about these dreys is what I have experienced is that they get raided by the birds for nesting materials, I have one high up in the cheese tree that was sadly just a shell after 7 months, don't get me wrong I love birds, just participated in the aussie bird count, these coconut lined baskets really are great for the birds and that's about it.
    Will be intouch soon, will gather up my materials and info on what I did, we just watched two adult females and three babies all come out of my drey, I just sent my mum a video sms of the three babies eating treats, they are absolutely adorable, the father meets up with them high up in the tree tops of the gum tree.
    I love our nocturnal wildlife, it's amazing how safe they feel here, they know I'm not a threat, they are so trusting and so very gentle, and really loving their drey and haven't returned to old one that was a pot and timber pailings, this one they favour as more natural, they left the old one in our garrage in less than two weeks, old one still their for them to use but not one has returned, so all going well.
    Will email you shortly.

  5. Hi,
    we watch possum TV regularly from half-globe away for quite some time now, and are totally mesmerized with your adorable possums and the way you care for them! Thank you for your effort in education about Australian wildlife!

    I noticed today that in the box no 4 there is a small brushtail possum (Mischa?) who clearly has some problems moving his backside and tail, and is probably in pain. He wakes up regularly and nervously licking his tail and belly. Hope he is ok, but it look a bit worrying.

    Best regards,
    Liza (Finland)

    1. I have replied to this by email, but for the benefit of other readers, I'll sum up what happened here.

      Mischa was acting a little strangely in his box today, moving clumsily and awkwardly and seeming to be quite uncomfortable and possibly distressed.

      After some observation, it looks like this was caused by a combination of heat and nervousness. It reached 34.5 C in his box today, which is probably the highest temperature he's ever experienced. Not only would the heat have been uncomfortable in itself, but it would also be making any pythons in the area more active. Mischa is small enough to be a meal for a python, so it's understandable (and probably a good thing) that he would be nervous.

      When he left the box for the night, he seemed to be his usual self, so hopefully there was nothing more to it.

  6. Hi
    Good to hear little Mischa once nightfall and out and about looked his normal little self.
    I observed my brushtail possum in extreme heat last summer who actually come out of her box all wet and rested on top of box roof looking like death. Her box was in our garrage, just one she would choose on the rare occasion, her other one was high up in our brushbox tree, that one she had many babies in over the years.
    Anyway back to Marlee looking like death, I raced back to house, got create ready to take her to vet, when I returned she was obsessively grooming herself, all her belly, tail and heaps under armpits, I remember watching a documentary how kangaroos do this in the extreme heat, so I thought to leave her as putting her in a crate would be to risky as these animals stress so easily and just a trip to the vet could be fatal.
    So I kept a close eye on her and other wildlife in my garden all showing signs of heat stress, by mid afternoon I got the hose out and drenched all the garden, the garrage walls etc, trees where ringtails were in dreys and the birds loved this too, i filled up with water all the palm sheaths on garden floor, water dragons, lizards, birds all enjoyed a bath, I watched a mother bandicoot sit in the palm sheath half of her body in water, she would splash water using her back legs onto her ears and back of head.
    I then used a spray bottle, set trigger on mist and aimed it at Marlee the female brushtail possum who absolutely loved this, I then got out all my icy fruits from freezer and went around the garden like a Mr Whippy van, everyone had a treat and then when the Kookaburras sang later that evening just before nightfall all the nocturnal wildlife come out, happy and carrying on normally raiding my garden plants new shoots and so much of the flora.
    I love helping out our wildlife, hence why I sooo love Possum TV.

    1. I had to laugh at the Mr Whippy comparison, I bet all of the wildlife loved their icy treats. :)

      We have also misted possums with a hand-sprayer in hot weather.

      The hottest it's been here since the possum boxes were put up would probably have been in February 2008 when it got a little over 40 C. Queek was in box 2 at the time and he ended up sticking the front half of his body out of the entrance hole. I think this was partly because there was a python in a nearby tree that he was keeping an eye on.