After coming to overnight global fame for allegedly charging at a woman in North Dunedin, the ”Blacks Rd Ripper” has been identified as a baby possum named Mrs Scoby Lunchbox.
The story, which featured a distressed woman who had been “held hostage” by a possum late Sunday night, was picked up by the Guardian, the Independent and New York Post, among national and international media.
It did not come as a surprise to the Dunedin woman who previously cared for the baby possum that people were interested in its escapades.
”I think people are craving some light-hearted news at the moment, so I can understand why people are particularly amused by the story,” she said.
She came to look after the possum after a trapper friend killed Mrs Scoby Lunchbox’s mother, but could not bring himself to kill the baby possum.
As a compromise, he put her in his lunchbox next to his sandwiches and carried her in his backpack while he kept working.
Initially, the woman kept the possum on her cat’s electric blanket in a cat carrier, and fed her sweetened oat milk, carrots, apples and her favourite food, banana.
“I didn’t feel like it was ethical to release her in the wild because of the ecological damage she would cause, but I also couldn’t bring myself to kill her.”
Eventually, the woman settled on a compromise: to wait until the possum was 1kg and get her spayed before mating season, which is in March.
Mrs Scoby Lunchbox had probably got lost around 10pm on Sunday, about an hour before a distressed woman called police to report she was “being held hostage” by the possum in her Blacks Rd home.
Senior Sergeant Craig Dinnissen said the woman reported that when she attempted to leave her house and reach her car the possum would charge, making her turn and flee back inside.
When police arrived soon after 11pm in the suburb of Opoho, they discovered a juvenile possum which, when they approached the door, appeared out of the dark and climbed an officer’s leg.
The Guardian reported veterinarian and animal behaviour expert Dr Rachael Stratton suggesting the possum was acting out of fear rather than aggression.
“The typical thing for most wild animals would be to run away. Unless, as it’s a juvenile, it is perhaps still learning how to deal with threats.”
The possum may have had fewer options for places to run and hide, because it was in an urban environment, she said.
The carer still hoped to find the possum, which police released on nearby Signal Hill, so it could be spayed.
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