Tiny possum finds a warm bed in Austinmer home

Ellie the eastern pygmy possum in the makeshift pouch that is her home for the winter. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

Ellie the eastern pygmy possum in the makeshift pouch that is her home for the winter. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

If most of us found a young pygmy possum, all 10 grams of it, undernourished, cold and hiding on top of a door frame in our house, we probably wouldn't know what to do with it.

That's why the volunteers at WIRES (Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service) make sure they know what to do when we call.

Now the organisation is looking for new volunteers and will hold courses to train them.

One of the region's most experienced volunteers is WIRES possum co-ordinator Tammy Lawler.

The little tacker in her care this month is an eastern pygmy possum, about 70 days old and measuring just five centimetres (plus tail).

It was found in a house in Austinmer, and when the residents put it outside it kept coming back to the warmth.

Ms Lawler said the juvenile, which she has named Ellie, had probably come out of its winter torpor (similar to hibernation) during recent warm weather, only to be caught in a cold snap.

She has stabilised the possum and is trying to feed her up to about 18 grams for release back into the wild.

Ms Lawler feeds Ellie milk and a couple of insects in the morning and some more later in the day, plus the occasional mealworm - "they're like lollies to them".

"I like all the animals but I have a passion for possums," she said.

"They're such interesting animals and they get into such mischief in today's society.

"They get into roofs, they have trouble with cats, with cars."

Winter is usually a quieter season for possums in the Illawarra, but Ms Lawler said a few start coming in later in July and August.

The busy season is the rest of the year - from spring through to autumn. Most of the possums that end up in the care of WIRES are orphans, having lost their mother to a car or a cat.

On July 12 and 13 WIRES will hold its Rescue and Immediate Care training course at RFS headquarters at Albion Park. The course, which costs $80, is necessary for people who want to become WIRES volunteers, and shows how to nurse an animal back to health.

To find out more about the course email wires.illawarra@hotmail.com or call 04 0286 8201.

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