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Possums in the Roof

An adult possum in roof carrying its young.
Image Courtesy: Critter Science

Australia is home to a fascinating array of wildlife, and among its nocturnal inhabitants are possums. These creatures often spark curiosity and, at times, concern and frustration when they enter the roof space – we’ve seen our fair share of possum-damaged insulation. In this article we’ll answer some common questions about possums including what their diet and sleep is like, how they get into the roof and how to get rid of them.

FAQs and Facts About Possums

Are possums native to Australia?

Yes, Australia boasts a wide variety of possum species, each adapted to its unique environment. Among the most common possum species in Australia are:

  • Common Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula
  • Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus)
  • Western Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus occidentalis)
  • Mountain Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus caninus)
  • Leadbeater’s Possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri)
  • Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps)
  • Greater Glider (Petauroides volans)
Possums can survive in various climates and habitats, including the dry, hot bush and cold, snowy mountain regions. Image Courtesy: Pat Whelen

What do possums eat? Do they eat meat?

Primarily herbivores, a possum’s diet consists of leaves, fruits, and flowers. Water intake is usually fulfilled through their food, and contrary to popular belief, possums are not carnivorous; they do not consume meat. If you want to feed a possum, do some research first to find out exactly what they can eat.

How do possums sleep?

These native creatures are arboreal, meaning they spend much of their time in trees. During the day, they find refuge in tree hollows or other sheltered spots. If they find a house nearby, they might go into the roof space or under the house to rest there. These marsupials are nocturnal, so they are most active at night, foraging for food under the cover of darkness. Depending on their age and environment, possums may sleep anywhere between 16 and 18 hours a day.

Do possums have pouches?

Yes, the mother carries her underdeveloped young in a pouch for several months before they transition to riding on their mother’s back. While spring is the peak season for possum births, they can produce offspring throughout the year.

Where do possums go during the day?

Possums retreat to tree hollows or other concealed locations during the day. They prefer dark, secure spots where they can rest undisturbed until dark.

What noise do possums make?

Possums are known for their interesting sounds, including hisses, grunts, growls, screeches and clicks. They use these sounds to communicate with other possums, particularly during the mating season. If they’re living in the roof or walls of your house, you might hear scratching, gnawing or chewing sounds as they nest and scurry around at night.

One of our insulation customers in Wedderburn, on the outskirts of Campbelltown, reported hearing loud, persistent scratching sounds in the wall centimetres from his head while he was trying to sleep. A subsequent roof insulation inspection revealed that much of the insulation had been torn and dirtied by the possum and other unwelcomed guests. In cases such as these, only a full insulation removal and replacement will completely rectify the issue. 

Are possums dangerous?

Possums are generally not dangerous to humans. They’re shy creatures and prefer to avoid confrontation. However, if cornered or feeling threatened, they may bite or scratch in self-defence. If you see one in the wild, it’s best to leave it alone. Possums have however been blamed for accidents in the past. In February 2024, an unlucky possum was identified as the cause of a bushfire in Bouvard, WA, after coming into contact with overhead powerlines.

Woman blocking her ears in bed because the possums are making loud noises in her roof.
Possums can be very noisy when they're scurrying around in the roof space at night.

How do Possums Get into the Roof?

Possums are skilled climbers and can find their way onto roofs by scaling trees or using overhanging branches as pathways. Once near the building, gaps or openings in roofs, vents or eaves become tempting entry points for them. Keep this in mind if you’re thinking of planting shade trees near your house.

Do Possums in the Roof Cause Damage?

Possums in the roof can cause significant damage. They often scratch, nest in and damage the ceiling insulation. Possum urine and droppings can harm ceilings and walls, leading to bad smells and costly repairs. They can also break roof tiles and chew on electrical wires, posing risks to both the property’s structure and its electrical system.

Polyester insulation is said to be more vermin-resistant than other insulation types like fibreglass. Installing insulation that is not attractive to animals is worthwhile, especially in a rural suburb.

How to Get Rid of Possums in the Roof

To deter possums, it’s advised to seal entry points, set up barriers or use possum boxes as alternative shelters. The NSW Government recommends spreading quassia chips in the roof cavity (available at hardware stores) and placing a light in the space, keeping it on for three days and nights. The combined effect of light and scent is likely to encourage the possum to leave your roof and, ideally, move into the possum house you’ve provided.

They also advise that once you’re sure the possum has relocated, block its access to the roof using a one-way door or by sealing the hole with chicken wire or wood. Also trim any overhanging branches. Nighttime is the optimal period to close access points, as the possum is likely out foraging for food. If you want to find the nests in the roof space, a thermal imaging camera is a handy tool that can be hired, and they work in both the daytime and nighttime by sensing heat.

If the possum returns, it indicates there might be another access point that needs to be closed.

In the ACT, possums are protected by the Nature Conservation Act 2014, making it against the law for an unauthorised person to trap or harm them. In NSW it’s illegal under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016. Serious penalties apply for trapping, removing or killing possums without a proper licence.

You can get free licenses to trap possums on your property from the local National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) office. Additionally, some licenced wildlife rehabilitation groups or pest control companies may offer traps for hire.

How to Stop Possums from Running on the Roof

Hearing possums running on your roof at night can be irritating and disturbing. To prevent possums from running on the roof, ensure that tree branches are trimmed away from the house. Additionally, consider installing deterrents like motion-activated lights or sound devices. Creating an environment less appealing to possums will encourage them to find other places to live.

Man cutting a gum tree to deter possums from entering into or walking on the roof.
Trim any overhanging tree branches.

Insulation Damaged by Possums

If you’ve discovered there are possums living in your roof, it’s best to deal with the problem as soon as possible. If you leave it for too long, you could end up with a whole possum family and their relatives thriving in the insulation; tearing it apart, moving it around and urinating on it. In addition to the stink, this greatly reduces how long the insulation will last.

If you have loose-fill or blown-in insulation installed, a roof insulation vacuum will be necessary to remove it.

Reach out to Amelior Insulation on 0450 858 568 for all your underfloor and ceiling insulation needs. Our insulation specialists service Canberra, Sydney, Blue Mountains and surrounds, and are ready to restore your damaged insulation so that it contributes to an energy efficient home.