Saturday 14 July 2012

Possums in Garage Doors

Recently, Flea has taken to sleeping in the garage door.

It's quite common for possums to sleep inside rolled-up garage doors. It's not clear what the attraction is. I can certainly think of a number of negatives: It's closer to the ground than possums usually like. A metal door is going to be cold in the winter and hot in the summer. The door rolls up or down at random times when people use it, which must be at best annoying, and at worst there's the danger of getting caught up in the mechanism.

Leena in Garage Door - Feb 2010

I've actually got quite a few photos of different possums in the garage door, but the quality is fairly low and I've only shown the least bad ones here. It's necessary to reach up into end of the door with a compact camera and take the photos blind, so it's a matter of luck whether it even points at (let alone focuses on) the possum. Also, the camera, an Olympus μ770SW, is not in the same class as the Nikon D80 we normally use.

The Garage Door, unoccupied
This is what's inside the garage door.

The black cylinder on the right is an electric motor, this drives a gearbox (the shiny silver object underneath), which in turn drives the gear teeth visible on the interior of the end part of the door. The other end of the door is open, allowing the possums to enter. Possums invariably go as far into the door as possible and end up sleeping right against this mechanism. The implications are scary; if the possum doesn't get out of the way quickly when the motor starts up, it could easily get caught up in the gears.

It's unfortunately a fairly typical situation; an item designed with utter disregard for the safety of anything other than humans. It is possible that some of the injuries we've seen (Cocoa's ear nearly torn off, Blackbeard losing a large amount of fur, and the horrible injury to Kiki's toe) might have been caused by something like this.

I now always check the garage door for possums before using it. If it's necessary to open the door with a possum present, I first tap on the door near the motor end to scare the possum away from the mechanism, then disengage the motor (there is a lever on the end of the door) and slowly lift the door manually.

I suppose I could block up the end of the door to prevent possums getting in, but it worries me that if some possums actually prefer sleeping in roller doors, they'd just move to a neighbour's garage where people would just operate the door without taking any precautions.

Pesto in Garage Door - Sept 2010

I have discovered that when the door moves, the possum can avoid being tumbled around by leaping onto the stationary central axle and remaining there while the door revolves around it. This is a smart move, but I can't help think it would be even smarter to sleep in one of the safe and comfortable possum boxes instead.

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