Are possums really scared off by owl figures or pictures?
Simple answer No.
Firstly, owls aren’t a predator for possums. They won’t be afraid of something that won’t harm them.
Secondly, a static object (photo, plastic replica etc) won’t also work because it doesn’t move. Animals, including humans, generally notice things more when they move. This is particularly the case at night when possums are out and about. Just think of a newspaper sheet lying on a concrete slab…it is unlikely to be noticed by the eye. If the wind picks it up and blows it it will be more noticeable.
Thirdly, most animals won’t look at a 2D surface and interpret it as a 3D object. This has been learnt by humans and isn’t something which animals are born with.
Fourth reason, smell. Many animals use their sense of smell to warn or danger. Pictures not plastic replicas have a owl/predator odour and won’t trigger a olfactory response.
Don’t waste your time or money putting pictures or plastic replica in the garden to scare off possums or other animals as they don’t work.
Do you have a possum problem, or just curious?
They are rather cute and adaptable, but can be a real problem around the house (if they can get into the roof space) or garden. They are omnivores and will also eat grass hoppers and cockroaches when they find them.
Most local councils can assist or offer advice about living with or managing your possums. Residential gardens based on fruit, veges and flowering plants probably look to a possum like a shopping centre foodmall, (optionally adjoining a farmers market).
We’ve brush tail possums that trip the night wildlife cam. None in the roof or near the house due to our preference for a sometimes animated deterrent, carpet python/s. A large 3D printed model of one with lifelike eyes might be an option for blocking a pathway. Assume though possums soon learn just how far one can strike out and will look for another option, if it’s not mobile. LEGO mind storms for the 3D skin?
I agree it is doubtful proposition but if I was interested in excluding possums this way I would want to see evidence that has been observed to work rather than a theoretical discussion of animal behaviour that may or may not be relevant.
To me this is in the same category as snake repellent and any other repellant - unless it has been shown to be effective I assume that it is not.
My solution to the possum problem is an electric fence. I have evidence that it works, before the fence was electrified they took 3/4 of my fruit now they take none.
I’ve yet to discover the secret to ensuring the Powerful Owl (they do prefer their meat well hung and aged a little) is a more frequent visitor to our back yard. Perhaps breeding possums to ensure a regular supply might be one option? Not the best idea knowing what else will be attracted.
Electric fences may be subject to council regulation. It’s always best to check. There are also lower powered versions more suitable for small animal management, than keeping your prize bull out of the cow paddock.
I should have used the word ‘generally’. The main predators for possums in the modern age are unfortunately exotic animals…cats, dogs and foxes.
It isn’t a theoretical discussion. There is a lot of evidence available for animal spotter catchers/bird watchers on how to get close to animals to either photograph or capture. If I get time, I will post some of it below.
Decoy owls work about as well as scarecrows…
Scarecrows are ineffective for generally the same reasons reasons outlined above. They often also provide a perch for birds ready to eat the crops that the scarecrow is purported to protect.
Like many of the devices available, while in theory they sound like a winner (and marketing information believable), none have proven effective.
Replica plastic (decoy) owls or pictures don’t exhibit any of the characteristics to make prey scared.
Unfortunately in this modern age the predator most likely to control feral cats, foxes and wild dogs is us. No need to eat any of them though.
A more natural solution that might help with cats is problematic in more urbanised regions.
For possums exclusion via netting Is commonly recommended. Netting serves to also keep birds and bats off fruit. One neighbour maintains a flock of guinea fowl to minimise unwanted visitations. Not necessarily practical if your other neighbours are very near.
That didn’t work for me, they would claw/chew through it.
Are you saying that generalising from behavioural studies not specific to fake owls is a more reliable way to answer the question than observing how possums actually react to fake owls?
Must be very discerning possums to go to so much trouble.
Most of our locals are picky too. The bats wait for just the perfect night to raid what ever will be perfect to pick the next day. One of the neighbours used to rehab possums. We’ve put off getting too serious about growing ground crops because of the effort required to keep everything including the bush rats etc under control. The electric fence option might be a more universal solution for things on the ground.
The experts also agree that they don’t work for birds and the same would apply for other animals (even less likely for possums as they are far more brazen than a bird)…
Behavioural triggers (for flight responses) are known and a plastic owl or picture does not exhibit these behavioural triggers as outlined in the first post.
The only trigger is visual, but a static/still replica may make an animal stop to have a look, but after a few moments it will realise that it isn’t a threat as it doesn’t move. This is no different to the principles to why scarecrows fail to work.
Self evident plastic owls are not scared of anything, other than the recycling bin pickup truck? Sorry, could not resist.
Interestingly the same does not apply to one of these.
The feral cats, and fox that has recently turned up seem to give it a respectful berth. Irrespective of what might be inside as inducement. There are always exceptions. Domestic cats are less aware, the first time. Catch and release (RSPCA) if anyone is concerned.
As @syncretic suggested, exclusion strategies may be the best option, situation dependent.
If @Gregr lives near us in Tassie, he is more than welcome to drop around and try our garden ornament (a decoy owl left on the garden by the previous owners). I say an ornament as that is all it is good for.
We have experimented with it to see if it stops blackbirds digging for worms in the garden - making a mess on adjacent pathways and paving) and also in the vegetable patch to deter possums and rabbits (eating principally spinach and rhubarb). It has been move around to different locations in the backyard (I would be a little embarrassed if I used it in the front yard for all and sundry to see).
The replica owl, which has a spring mounted head which bobs around in strong wind, made…wait for it…zip difference. While this is anecdotal evidence, it follows the known behaviour traits of animals in relation to how that identify their predators.
We have resorted to exclusion by netting all the vegetables the possums/rabbits tend to prefer and also resolved to sweeping paths/pathing on a regular basis.
it doesn’t work and fit into the realms of the sonic insect/cockroach eradicators.
Haven’t tried pictures, but if a 3D replica owl doesn’t work, there is no way that a 2D image of an owl will be better.
I would like to have a trained powerful owl … “Go get 'em Smaug”
Quite possibly so but as a dyed-in-the-wool empiricist I can’t go past actually observing if the expert proposed effect actually happens the way they say it does, if the experts are dinkum nor should they. Perhaps a job for the Annals of Improbable Research.
A 150year old gum tree with suitable nesting hollow seems a pre-requisite.
It’s not evident how readily the owls will take to made nest boxes, although I’ve seen some great looking ones from discarded tree trunks and larger branches. Our three nest boxes are not proving all that attractive to anything after two seasons. Given they were professionally made with a 5star finish it is even more of a surprise. Perhaps the green tree snake/s has too prominent a presence.
My observation of the a Powerful owl that used to visit our back yard their flight is as silent as… Highly unlikely any prey has a clue or time to be scared until it’s lifted into the air. They do eat more than just possums per our observation.
Thanks all. I reckon that based on the posts, as they say in the TV show, this myth is busted. But I must say the python idea sounds cool. Just don’t want it swallowing my cats, only the brush tailed possies.
Make a chilli spray, use on places they climb. Paw things!