Food Raiders of the Overland Track

Thought for food: When hiking the Overland Track make sure you put some thought into how to protect your food from animal raiders

There are many hazards on the Overland, but one of the most common is animals eating your food as you sleep. Waking up to find a very fat possum outside your tent and your entire week’s worth of breakfast oats gone could ruin your trip.

It’s no good for the animals either, as the unnatural diet can lead to serious health problems. Animals can also starve as there are few hikers to provide food in the colder months and if they try to return to their traditional diet they often find their home range has been occupied in their absence.

On the Overland the most common food raiders are bushtailed possums. In the past people have foolishly fed the animals and now they’ve developed a taste for the cheap thrills of processed food. These days hikers are mostly too responsible to feed them deliberately, but the possums now crave the taste and launch raids on tents and huts to try and get a feed.

This includes rummaging through packs left in front of tents overnight – there have even been reports of possums ripping open tents to get to the food they can smell inside. I’ve also had a spotted-tail quoll chew a hole through the tough fabric of my pack and make off with food (and a dirty sock).

A better option is to store your food (and rubbish) in one of the huts along the track, even if you’re camping. But even in a hut food is not safe, with possums sneaking through open doorways and even forcing out fly-wire to get in through windows. These guys are determined! Also some huts are home to native long tailed mice, cute little guys who are adept at climbing and don’t mind a mouthful of tomorrow’s lunch.

The easiest way I’ve found of keeping my food from the mice, quolls and possums is to hang it up from the hut’s beams.

I put all my food and rubbish into a cloth bag and tie the bag to a rafter or beam with a 50cm length of fishing line. Then I can have a restful night’s sleep instead of hearing rustles in the middle of the night and wondering, Is that tomorrow’s breakfast disappearing?

Food raiders aren’t limited to huts and tents. Many of us have had the particularly Tasmanian experience of leaving our backpack beside the track while exploring a sidetrip only to return and notice a pocket has been unzipped.

Your camera and map are still there, but somebody has nicked your stash of muesli bars. All four of them are gone without trace. Who would do such a low thing?

A black currawong, that’s who. They’re a bird species only found in Tasmania – and a rather smart one at that. These guys hang about around track junctions where they know hikers often leave their bags to do sidetrips. Once the coast is clear they swoop down and hoick open zips with their powerful beaks.

When doing any sidetrips on the Overland put a pack cover over your bag – currawongs haven’t figured out how to remove pack covers yet, although I am sure they are working on the problem…

Excerpted from The Overland Track Guidebook

Excerpted from The Overland Track Guidebook, a guidebook to Tasmania’s famous hike. The full-colour guidebook includes track notes, maps, flora, fauna, geology and history. The book is available from bookshops, visitors centres and online.