The most available and ready source of meat in the bush, that I know of in New Zealand, is Opossum.

There is a couple of weaknesses that they have, that makes them easier to catch than Rabbits or Hare.

For one, they are not afraid of Human scent. This means you do not have to be so careful about not wearing antiperspirants etc.

Secondly, They say ‘curiosity killed the Cat’. Well, Possums are very curious. Just about any thing different, that will stand out at night, will arouse their interest.

I spend at least 3 days a week trapping Possums, and just the other week caught 61 in a day, I only pluck the fur from them, and every time I throw away the carcass, I think ‘thats a lot of meat going to waste’. Possums are carriers of TB, so caution is necessary, and you need to check for spots on the liver etc. I must admit that I have never indulged in it, but plenty of trappers who spend long times in the bush do. Some Shrafters that I have talked to have eaten all sorts of animals including Hedgehogs, so I figure such a ready source of meat may be of interest to some.

So, in this post, I will try to show some of the things to look for. When I have the time, I will show some snare traps that I believe will be effective on them. I use Leghold Traps, these are reasonably cheap so they may be an option for you. I bought ‘Bushman’s Best’ traps and they only cost $10 each.

We use a lure that we spray on the tree, This stands out at night to a Possum, and it has some smelly oils added to increase its attractiveness. There is some small glow tags available and they cost around 80 cents, these are small and light, they would easily fit into a survival kit, and they just need to sit in the sun a bit to charge up. I have caught animals on nothing more than these tags, so they do work.

Possums leave a lot of signs. Territory marks, scat, and possum trails. Once you have learnt the signs, they stand out. I can ride along on my Quad and see them. The more time you spend doing these things the more the signs stand out. This translates through to other animals as well because you just see things that do not seem right.

territory marks can look like,

Scat comes in all sorts of forms,

The first picture is fresh scat, the other 2 are old. The fresh scat is slick looking. The scat does not need to be individual segments, they do come in combined packages, as in the 2nd and 3rd pictures.

These are some well used Possum trails

Obviously, Possum trails are more numerous than just these. These trails stand out, most Possum trails are not so clear of debris. Photos of less obvious trails do not show the depressions that you would look for, therefore just look for a trail that is just debris compressed further than the surrounding area. Possums love to run, so if you are a regular in the area, clear the trail of debris, sticks, fallen trees etc. This will attract animals to your trail as it is like a Highway in comparision to what they are used to. I set traps at the base of Trees, if in DOC land you may need to set them of the ground to avoid catching Native Ground Birds, such as Kiwi and Weka. On private land you can set them how you like. Make sure you gain permission to do any type of trapping on the land you are using, as if someone is trapping the land they may take issue.

One way to increase the chance of catching an animal is to place some sort of obstacle either side of the trap, such as branches etc. This guides them over your trap or snare increasing the chance of capture. These obstacles need to be angled outwards, to funnel them in the direction you want.

A good solid blow on the top of the head, between the ears, is the quickest way to subdue the animal. You can skin the animal, if you wish to keep the skin you will need to leave the animal hanging overnight to set the fur. If you want to tan it, You will need to research something such as Brain tanning on the Internet.

These animals are a ready source of meat, and suprisingly easy to catch. Skin them and gut them just as you would any other small game animal. Cook them on a spit or any way you would a Rabbit.

Bon Appetit


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Comment by Stephen Coote on May 18, 2011 at 8:24

I would avoid eating possums where any sort of poisoning has been done.   And this would include areas near 'civilisation' where individuals may have laid baits that can be bought from farm supply stores etc.


Plus I seldom would eat a liver from any possum or pig in a questionable area.   I understand that this is where the greatest concentrations of any residual poison are likely to be.

Comment by Gregory Kampjes on May 17, 2011 at 20:48
I'm guessing eating possum in 1080 areas is a bad idea?

Comment by Stephen Coote on May 13, 2011 at 16:17
I forgot to say I enjoyed your  'ossum' comment.   To help give these animals a better reputation, maybe we should change the name to "pawsome".

Comment by Stephen Coote on May 13, 2011 at 16:13

Thanks Nadia.   Good things are worth waiting for.

I suspect that some possums may rub their chests on smelly things.  I think this may sometimes account for some of the gamey flavour in possum meat... and it follows that the meat nearest the chest (the front legs and ribs) might be 'gamier' than the hind legs if cooked separately.

If the possum is particularly gamey to eat, it might be that the glands at the base of the tail weren't removed.... or maybe they leaked during the removal process.   (I'm not saying this happened in your case Nadia.... I'm just in essay mode regarding gamey possum meat). One major thing that taints the meat, in my opinion, is leaving the guts in the animal for more than a short time after it is killed.

When I was taking home a lot of possum to eat I would generally just take the back legs and the attached backbone up to the rib cage.  I'd throw away the rib cage and front legs because there wasn't much meat at the front end anyway.    A lot of the time the meat seemed to be almost a bit bland.  Sometimes I would detect a gamey flavour, and I think I would mainly taste it in the meat around the backbone from possums that had been dead in the snare overnight (with their guts in).   I don't mind a bit of game flavour, but I certainly would avoid serving up an animal like this to someone trying possum for the first time.

A lot of the possum I've eaten hasn't been what I would describe as tough.    However I'd generally pick meat that came from healthy-looking plump possums that had a nice amount of fat on them.  I'd generally leave the big old carcases for the pigs and hawks, and I wouldn't even entertain taking a scrawny one home.

I thought I had a place lined up to go and set a few possum snares, but that may have fallen through for now.   Hopefully something else will turn up.   The dog and I would enjoy a few outings with the possibility of some 'coon' meat as a bonus.


Comment by Nadia on May 13, 2011 at 9:18

Hey Coote, totally forgot to report back with the results of our de-furried friend for dinner! Just thought I'd let you know how it went... since you wanted to know what we thought of it.

Night one: Tentative taste of front legs. (Time cooked - 1.5 hours) Firstly - I find possum does have a distinctive taste/smell - whereas goat is like lamb but more intense - possum is all about it's own rather specific thing. Even just typing this (weeks later), my "mind's nose" is recreating it in my memory! Me and the BF were a bit wus about the whole affair with the unique cooking smell wafting through the house, so we only tried the little front legs first. It's rich and gamey like nothing I've ever tried - I figure the intensely flavoured diet of pungent native foliage must be what does it, as every other meat I’ve eaten has been grass or grain fed. (Plus, its guts smell like fermented feijoa following its final snatch and grab mish.) Verdict: intriguing but tough - needs longer cooking time.


Night two: The back legs (Time cooked - further 1.5 hours bringing the total up to about 3 hrs (same as goat). After the additional cooking time during the slow stovetop reheat, the possum meat actually began to soften up a bit and we were able to see it start to “fall off the bone”. Yay. Much nicer when it’s not so tough! (They’re all muscle, like furry little gymnasts!) Verdict: delicious, but needs to be cooked as per goat (3ish hours) rather than rabbit (1.5ish hours). I would also seriously consider marinating it in something acidic (like mashed kiwifruit) before cooking in future, just to help tenderising the meat.


Conclusion: Cooked well, possum = ossum. The folks offered us another one the following week which we turned down, but I think we’ll definitely eat possum again - though since it’s such an intense and unique flavour we might reserve it for once in a while rather than a new “every week” protein. 

(Next marsupial related bushcrafting activity: making a detachable possum fur trim for my snowboarding jacket from some tails and a hot water bottle cover from the main body bits. Waste not, want not as the saying goes!)


Comment by Stephen Coote on April 12, 2011 at 18:48
Excellent!   Sounds exotic.  Bon appetit.

Comment by Nadia on April 12, 2011 at 18:17
Cheers for the info Coote! Righto - we're gonna give it a crack. Although that crumb-and-fry method does sound tasty, I've decided on replacing the rabbit in another recipe, as I heard they could be cooked similarly. If we reckon the meat is any good I'll be sure to try cooking it your way another time tho. For now, looks like "Possum Tagine with Saffron & Chickpeas" for dinner, it is..! :)

Comment by Stephen Coote on April 12, 2011 at 17:52

Hi Nadia

Disclaimer:  I am not a vet, or a doctor, or a biologist or any sort of an expert.   However, I will tell you what I think. ... but you will still have to make up your own mind.


I have asked various people about the TB threat.   One guy said that really the only chance you'd have of catching it was if you punctured a TB abscess or something like it and the infected fluid 'aerosoled' into the atmosphere so that you breathed it or ingested it.   I asked another possum enthusiast about it, and this guy has a 'Doctor' in front of his name as well as being a keen protector of the environment and a long-term possum eater.   He reckoned that cooking would kill any organism.   And I'm inclined to agree.


So I think that you've already got past the most critical stage... and that was the hygiene while skinning and cutting up the possum.   If you were careful and washed yourself and your knife and gear etc after preparation you should be fine.


If the meat looks like it came from a skinny, unhealthy possum then it may be best not to eat it .... mainly because you might be put off possum for life if it is too stringy.   But if it looked good... and if I were you.... I'd be cutting it up and maybe crumbing and frying it in some fairly deep dripping or oil.


If you do eat it, I'd be interest to read about what you thought of it.


Best wishes... Coote.



Comment by Nadia on April 12, 2011 at 17:38

My folks caught a possum a few days ago (Friday), in a trap under their feijoa tree - out near Clevedon where I'm hoping it's unlikely that it had been exposed to poison. Knowing my interest in wild foods they hung it, skinned it and the BF has just jointed it for some legs for our meal - it's been in the fridge since being skinned on Saturday arvo.

It's tuesday now.. and  I just popped on the net to look for recipes and found this thread. So can I ask - would any of you guys eat it for dinner at this stage? We didn't realise there was a need to check the liver or legs and ribcage for signs of TB either, and the guts etc have already been disposed of. Now we're kind of feeling iffy about it, although we're keen to find out what possum's like and the meat looks fine. Wouldn't want curiosity to kill the cat - or give it TB or an recurring bacterial infection or whatever though!

Input is welcome - whether or not it's in time for tonight's dinner decision, I'm sure the parents can sort us out some more in the future if we end up giving this particular specimen a miss anyways.

Comment by Scott Hamilton on November 2, 2010 at 20:51
Trappers who skin high numbers have been known to skin warm, but if you have ever plucked possum fur, you will know how easy it pulls out. You can dunk them in cold water and this will help set the fur faster and reduce the chance of plucking fur, but still risky. If you are not skinning to sell the fur and are wanting to use it yourself, you can skin it whenever you like as it will not reflect on your income. Possum fur is much denser in winter but you can still get reasonable skins all year round. One way to help insure this is to trap /shoot at higher altitudes, as the higher up the possum can live, generally the thicker coats they have as they need them.

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