New Zealand opossum holds woman hostage in her home | New Zealand

A possum has been released without charge after holding a woman “hostage” at her home, New Zealand police said.

Officers received a call late Sunday evening from a distressed woman who said “a possum was holding her hostage” at her home in the town of Dunedin, on the South Island.

“When she got out of her house and tried to reach her car, the opossum would charge her and she would run inside,” said Staff Sergeant Craig Dinnissen.

When the police arrived and approached the front door, a young opossum emerged from the darkness and climbed an officer’s leg. Dinnissen suspected that it was an escaped pet or that it had recently been separated from its mother.

After apprehending the suspect, police delivered the possum to the nearby Signal Hill lookout and released it back into the wild “to prevent further harassment of citizens.” No harm came to the opossum or the officer, Dinnessen said.

Veterinarian and animal behavior expert Dr Rachael Stratton suggested the opossum acted out of fear rather than aggression.

“The typical thing for most wild animals would be to run away. Unless, since he’s a minor, he might still be learning to deal with threats.

The opossum may have had fewer options for running and hiding, as it was in an urban environment, she said.

But while Dunedin’s human population can rest once again, New Zealand’s native birds, insects and trees cannot.

Opossums have had a devastating impact on bird life, competing for food and habitat, and climbing nests to eat eggs and young. They also destroyed native trees, in particular rātā, totara, tītoki, kōwhai and kohekohe.

Marsupials were first introduced to New Zealand from Australia in 1837, to establish a fur trade that never took off. With no natural predators other than cats and an assortment of flora and fauna defenseless against predators, the number of possums has exploded. A 2009 Landcare study estimated their population to exceed 47 million.

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