Possums are widespread throughout Southland and Stewart Island/Rakiura, but are absent from many offshore Islands.

What is it?

The possum is an introduced marsupial (pouched young) from Australia and is has a cat-like appearance with a thick bushy tail, close woolly fur, fox-like ears and a pointed snout.

What is the problem?

Originally introduced to New Zealand in the late 1800s to establish a fur trade, the Australian brushtail possum has become New Zealand's most noted pest animal.

Environmental impacts include browsing damage to native forests, particularly regenerating plants and with flowers, fruits, leaves and growing tips of plants targeted. Possums heavily impact biodiversity directly by feeding on native birds eggs, chicks and invertebrates. They can affect the regional economy too, by feeding on pasture, crops and damaging plantings. They are also a main vector for Bovine Tuberculosis (TB).

How to control it

Control methodExample
TrappingLive capture traps (cages and legholds), kill traps (Timms on the ground, Possum Master in trees).
PoisoningIn bait stations only. Pestoff (Brodifacoum), No Possums (Cholecalciferol) and Pindone.
Night-shootingFor rural landowners only a with firearms licence. Most effective in first four hours after dark using .22 rifle or shotgun.
Commercial pest controllers Contact Environment Southland for information on recommended contractors or the yellow pages under pest control.
RepellentsTemporary protection for young trees. Garden shops, tree nurseries or farm supply shops may have repellent preparations. Or an egg 'home brew' can be considered.

For details on control methods, see our factsheet on possums.


Possums are a suppression animal on mainland Southland. They are too well established to eradicate from the mainland, so our aim is to suppress their numbers to minimise impacts on the community and the environment. Possums are an exclusion animal on offshore and inland islands.


Land occupiers shall control possums on the land they occupy to reasonable levels depending on the location in Southland. Rural land occupiers may be near a Possum Control Area (PCA) and can find out more about Possum Control Areas here. No person shall keep in captivity, sell, breed, transport or release live possums within Southland including offshore and inland Islands. For a full explanation of the rules for possums see the Regional Pest Management Strategy.


Possum monitoring is carried out in key areas where information about possum abundance is required such as areas where community based groups manage pests and within the Possum Control Areas. This is usually done before or after a control activity like trapping or baiting has been carried out.

In most cases, a nationally recognized standard monitoring method is used to estimate possum abundance including:

  • Residual trap catch (RTC)
  • WaxTags
  • Chew cards
Page reviewed: 09 May 2016 10:36am