Possum control may feel daunting over vast tracts of land, but having effective systems in place will make a big difference. Below we summarise the pros and cons of trapping, shooting and/or using bait stations for targeting possums.
Possum control options
First, make sure you have permission to trap on the land (e.g. from private landowners, iwi, DOC or your local council, depending on the target area).
Your toolkit may include one or more of the following tools:
- Bait stations – effective over large areas with dense possum populations while saving time, money and resources. However, you must carefully consider any potential effects of toxins on the area. Other wildlife and livestock must not have access to toxins.
- Trapping – useful for ongoing control once possum numbers are knocked down by toxins and/or night shooting, but it’s a slower and potentially less effective method.
- Shooting – can be a useful method for possums, especially at night (they are nocturnal) and during spring when they are abundant. Not effective for rodents or mustelids.
Possums have seasonal preferences and are opportunistic feeders. You can move your trap or bait stations to target seasonal food supplies such as:
- supplejack, taraire, hinau, tawa fruiting in May and August
- pine pollen in July – August
- willow-poplar budding in October – December
- various orchard trees when fruiting throughout the year.
Bait stations for possums
Bait stations can save time, money and resources over large areas where possum numbers are high. Toxic baits can be an effective knockdown tool to begin with, followed by trapping to keep numbers down. It is recommended that you alternate baiting with trapping or shooting for ongoing control over large areas. For more information, see ‘Trap, bait and equipment tips’.
Note: all tools have their advantages, limitations and consequences. Overuse of the same tool will reduce its effectiveness. Tool selection depends on habitat, scale, which predators are present, and how much time and money you put into it.
If you’re new to bait stations, read our introduction to bait stations first which includes an overview and safety advice.
Which toxic baits to use and when
Read our section on bait stations for targeting possums, which includes a list of baits commonly used by community groups.
For definitions and explanations of first vs. second generation and single feed vs. multi feed, read our introduction to bait stations.
Where to put your bait stations
DOC recommends setting them in a grid pattern as closely as possible, with 100m or less between lines and 20–40m initially between stations, or up to 100m in areas with low density. On difficult terrain set lines down ridges and spurs, and along contours, to achieve the necessary spacing.
Trapping possums in the bush
The type of trap you choose will depend on your budget and the amount of time you have to check them.
Modifications to traps might be required if kiwi, weka, domestic cats or other non-target species are present.
Always wear gloves when handling your trap or catches.
Where to put your traps
Place your traps where you see signs of possum activity, e.g. at the base of trees and posts and near tracks made by possums. Possums generally have a home range of around 1 – 4 hectares.
Set traps on lines 100m (or less) apart with a trap every 20–40m initially, or up to 100m in areas with low possum numbers or if using self-resetting traps. Use a compass and hip chain to measure distance between traps and traplines. Use GPS or a map to plot and mark your traplines before heading out, then place markers/flagging tape to clearly identify them. Number your traps. (For more, see how to set traplines.)
You can combine traplines to target more than one predator type by laying out your rat traps first (see how to target rats in the bush, then plotting along the same traplines based on recommended spacing (see how to target ferrets, stoats and weasels in the bush).
What traps to use
This is a simple and effective way of trapping low density possum populations and can be purchased from our online shop. It is an all-in-one, spring-set mechanism in a plastic box that is mounted by screws onto trees, one metre above the ground (or at least 1.3m if weka are present).
Try this sweet flour paste recipe as a lure to attract possums to your bait stations or traps.
Read our instructions on setting up, baiting and checking the Trapinator.
The new Flipping Timmy possum trap is based on the Timms trap. It is mounted vertically (removing the need to bend over) which ensures a clean catch area. See our tips on setting up the Flipping Timmy.
The Flipping Timmy is available from our shop.
Use this sweet flour paste recipe as a lure to attract possums to your bait stations or traps.
What bait to use
Use highly palatable baits in your traps such as peanut butter, Connovation Smooth in a Tube or Possum Dough from Traps.co.nz. Possums don’t have a strong sense of smell, so a visual lure such as icing sugar or flour is also a good idea.
We have a recipe for a sweet flour paste that is highly recommended by Cam Speedy of Wildlife Management Associates.
This can be effective in rural areas if undertaken regularly. However, it generally isn’t considered a long term option because possums can become light-shy.
Spring can be a good time for night shooting because that’s when their favourite foods become available, such as willow or larch buds. Possums can also be easily detected in ‘naked trees’.
Use a spotlight and a .22 rifle or shotgun. You must follow all safety and legal requirements for firearms.
How to monitor results
To gauge the success of your possum control:
- use chew cards before and after the control programme.
- record the number of possums trapped and/or the amount of bait taken.
- keep track of signs that possums have been browsing on seasonal foods such as supplejack, taraire, hinau, tawa, pine pollen, willow-poplar, orchard fruit.
For more advice, read ‘How to monitor predator activity’.