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Monday, September 6, 2010

Wild Kingdom

For a country girl who has had more than her share of encounters with wild animals - raccoons, armadillos, rattlesnakes - you'd think what happened last night wouldn't have given me the heebie-jeebies. But it did.

We live in the city now where the bunnies hopping across the yard and the squirrels tk-tk-tk-ing from the trees are about as wild as it gets. You'd think.

It's bedtime. Time to let Zelda (the wonder doxie) out for the last time before we call it a night. Instead of the usual dash to the grass, she stops right outside the door, sniffs and rattles the leaves in the corner where the breakfast room juts out a foot or so from the rest of the house. Then she jumps, her claws scritching for traction as she goes after what looks like - from the corner of my eye - a BIG rat.

"No, Zelda, stop!" The thing is hunkered by the leg of the lawn chair. Not a rat, but a young, probably half grown possum.

Zelda pauses, but doesn't obey and inches closer.

"No. Stay away." My voice has hitched up an octave. More of a screech.

"Help! Max, can you hear me? Stop, Zelda. Don't touch it!"

I don't know if Max can hear me, but I'm pretty sure the neighbors have.

I'm scrambling, trying to hook my finger in Zelda's collar. She's having none of it. And her nose is sniffing, and I think she's trying to gain her courage for the big lunge. The possum is staring us down with its beady little eyes.

An incident with a tiny bunny a few months back flashes through my head, and I cannot wrap my head around what Zelda is going to do to this possum, who has not played dead as I always thought they were supposed to do.

Max comes flying out the back door, and I point to the spot where the creature is. He reaches for Zelda who is now going in circles, but somehow when he shuffles across the concrete, the back of his house shoe catches on the crack between the patio sections. He loses his balance and is now hurtling toward me. He bumps my shoulder and grabs the back of the patio chair and thankfully doesn't crash onto the patio. Zelda is looking at us like - "Gee, I wish you all were this entertaining all the time."

I scoop her up and look for the possum. It has escaped. Gone. Smart little thing.

I take Zelda inside, put her in her crate, telling her the adventure is over and she will just have to "hold it" until morning. Max goes to bed. I'm not sleepy so I google opossums.

They are not related to rats (although there is a remarkable resemblance). They are nocturnal marsupials and more related to kangaroos and koalas than rats.

They do not carry rabies, but like any mammal, they could. Chances are extremely rare, however, since the have too low a body temperature to allow the rabies virus to survive.

They make few sounds. You may hear a soft choo-choo or sneezing sound. Mamas make a clicking sound when trying to locate their babies or during mating season.

If you find an opossum (the correct name) in your yard, leave it alone. They are transient and stay only two to three days in an area before they move on. (And I'm thinking this little critter has already taken the Amtrak to another far away neighborhood)

Do not trap or kill. The opposum is actually beneficial: eating the harmful, unwanted pests around your home such as snails, slugs, spiders, cockroaches, rats, mice and snakes. Think of the opossum as your free gardener. The opossum is known as “Nature’s Little Sanitation Engineer” for a good reason!

Okay. There you have it. Possums a good thing. I wish someone had told my pounding heart. But no matter what the internet says, it still looked like a rat. With beady eyes and a long tail.

Any pet adventures with you lately? Encounters with wild animals?

PS: This is not "our" possum, but one courtesy of Google Images.


Shelley Adina said...

Yesterday I threw a big rock at a coyote who came up out of the canyon heading for my chickens. He was scared away but now that he knows they're there he'll be back.

Shelley Adina

Jewel Sample said...

We had a family of opossums one year. They ate the dog's food and made a mess of things. Our elderly dog even had a stroke over the uninvited guests. We did build a trap and take them to another location, which was the recommendation of our animal shelter. So glad we did, it was so much more quieter than listening to the neighborhood dogs bark all night.

Erica Vetsch said...

I could see why you weren't sleepy after an encounter like that!

My cat is missing my eldest child who is now away at college, and kitty has become almost obnoxiously clingy and needy!

carla stewart said...

Oh Shelley, I can just see you pitching those rocks. When we lived on a farm, the coyotes got all of our cats. I wouldn't even let the dachshund we had then go outside by herself. Hope your chickens are okay.

Jewel, I do hope this little critter was just lost, but I've seen possums in our yard before - just not two feet from the back door - LOL!

Thanks, Erica, for stopping by! Isn't it weird how animals react to loss. Your kitty will be glad when your daughter comes home for the holidays.

Patti Lacy said...

No, but skunks call our Normal home. They saunter around like they own the place...and kinda do, with their weapon!


Myra Johnson said...

Better keep Zelda away from our house! Visitors spotted a coyote behind our back fence just last Saturday!

Oh, yes, we have wildlife. Snakes, mice, hawks, rabbits, coyotes, squirrels . . .

And this is the city????