How would you like to make a living as a possum trapper? One New Zealand man is doing just that, and he’s earning more than $40,000 a year.
Shay Williamson, an 18-year-old from the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand, makes between $50,000 and $60,000 a year, in New Zealand dollars, trapping possums, according to a Queensland Country Life story by Jamie Ball. That translates to roughly $40,000 to $48,000 in U.S. dollars.
But don’t break out your possum traps and rush out into the woods just yet. There is more to this story. Williamson is not trapping the opossums we know in North America. He’s trapping common brush tail possums, a species native to Australia. The common brush tail possums bear little resemblance to our opossums and are worth much more in the fur trade. Their fur is often used in the clothing industry for trim and insulation.
Fortunately for New Zealand trappers, common brush tail possums are very abundant on the southwestern Pacific Ocean island country. Originally brought there in the 1800s by European settlers hoping to develop a fur industry, the possums have no natural predators. Populations have since exploded, and the possums are now considered pests.
Williamson has been trapping the possums full-time since he was 16, according to the story. And he’s trapped more than 10,000 of them in the past two years.
“Per kilo, possum fur is worth more than sheep wool and cow’s milk put together,” Williamson said in the story. “The fact that the possum fur industry is still thriving after all the efforts to poison and demonise them is a testament to how valuable the product really is.”
The next logical question is, “Why aren’t more New Zealanders becoming trappers to take advantage of the overabundant and valuable possums?”
“It’s pretty hard work, and I think a lot of it is the knowledge,” Williamson said. “I mean, I did a lot of hunting and stuff, and Dad did a lot of possuming when he was my age, so I had the knowledge of being able to find my way around in the bush anyway.”
While trapping knowledge is certainly a barrier, the work Williamson puts in would likely turn away many trappers. It takes him a day of walking to get to the area he traps and then he stays out in the bush for two weeks at a time, shooting pigs and deer for meals. He even eats a little possum too.
“It’s probably similar to chicken, maybe a bit darker,” he said. “You could put it in a chicken burger or something, and no one would know the difference.”
So, would you drop your day job and trap for a living if you could make more than $40,000 trapping possums? Would you move to New Zealand to do it?