As well the regular work we do with local care groups, we are also undertaking pest control in the quieter season here at Ohiwa. This involves getting a “block” (of land) from DOC and trapping possums. It can be hard work navigating your way through sometimes steep thick bush (bush whacking) and carrying all the equipment required to do the job.
We pluck the Possum fur which is soft and warm. Possum skins can be used to make clothing and bedding. Possum fur is mixed with merino sheep wool to make knitting yarn. Possum meat has been found to have a high quality protein. Some New Zealand companies use it to make healthy pet food for cats and dogs. In the 1980s, possum meat was also exported to some Asian countries for people to eat where it was considered a special food delicacy. We’ve tried eating it but I think I need to research more recipes and suspect the younger possums may taste better.
Trapping is a great opportunity to get out there and observe the abundant local native flora and fauna, which unfortunately the possums are having a devastating impact on. Possums are omnivorous and feed readily on eggs and chicks. It’s estimated they can kill around 25 million birds and/or their eggs a year. They compete with birds for space, food (berries, etc.) and also kill them. They are also partial to insects and snails.
Possums can also spread Bovine (cattle) TB. Bovine tuberculosis infection transfers relatively easily from possums to cattle due to the proximity of farmland to bush areas in New Zealand. The damage done by possums costs NZ farmers about $35 million every year.
Possums were originally introduced to New Zealand by early settlers who though it would be a good idea to start a fur industry here. The first possum population to survive was in 1858. The more popular darker coloured possums originally came from Tasmania, Australia. There are now about 35 million possums in New Zealand. We're going to be busy...
Karen is a co-owner of Ohiwa Seascape Studios. When she is not busy at the studios, she is busy enjoying becoming a part of the local community here in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.