A fuzzy and well-known bushfire survivor is getting his life back on track after deadly bushfires left devastation in far East Gippsland.
Residents held grave concerns that the large brushtail possum, known as Russell Rustle, might have been killed in the summer’s bushfires.
But luckily he has made a comeback and is doing better than ever with a partner and new baby in tow.
Diana Wolfe from Lin Cottages said it was a huge relief when the possum returned.
“We called him Russell because all we hear at night is ‘rustle, rustle’ and eventually he’d show up looking for something to eat,” she said.
“I know a lot of people don’t like possums. They think they are noisy and annoying, but we absolutely adore ours.
“Hopefully Russell will have a long and fruitful life settling down with his partner Rosie and [their] new bub [that] we call Rascal.”
‘Every house lost’
Ms Wolfe was not in Mallacoota on New Year’s Eve when fire destroyed at least 100 houses, including many close by to her own.
“From our back fence down to Bastion Point every house was lost,” she said.
“It was just devastating. The place just looked awful.
“I was sure he would have been toasted in the fire. I was so worried.”
Ms Wolfe said she would always remember the night she saw Russell again, weeks after the bushfires swept through.
“One night I went down to the local golf club for dinner and I’d left out some chopped carrot,” she said.
“I heard ‘rustle, rustle rustle, rustle’ and sure enough there he was with his cheeks full of carrot, looking at me, like he was saying, ‘Where have you been?’.
“I almost cried with relief.”
Locals rally to support wildlife
Ms Wolfe said she did not always feed native animals, but after so much wildlife was killed during the bushfires she had changed her approach.
“Normally we wouldn’t supplementary feed wildlife,” she said.
“[But] because of the bushfire the locals have really rallied around.
“Even though a lot of people were left homeless themselves, they have looked after the wildlife.”
Ms Wolfe said her plan was to retire in Mallacoota and, with some luck, be alongside her brushtail possum family.
“Russell is about the size of a small beanbag with a head and he has lots of attitude,” she said.
“Rascal is just a blob on his mum’s back at the moment, but hopefully he lives a long life like his dad.”