You Animal, You!

Or you say “Possum”  — like Dame Edna Everage —  and I say “Opossum.” 

Last week there was an intriguing little story of an opossum who took an early morning ride on the D-Train from Brooklyn into Manhattan.  Read about the Jerome the Possum’s 15 minutes of fame here.

It is worth noting that this gangsta marsupial did not defend itself by “playing possum.”  The animal bared his/her teeth and got a private car all to him/herself ~  the gender of the animal was never confirmed, but only a true New Yorker would stand his/her ground with such confidence.

But I think the opossum is a misunderstood creature when we involuntarily shiver and call it a “big rat.” Unlike rats, opossums eat all sorts of pests — including rattlesnakes!  I’ve only seen them shuffling along at night although as a teenager out at dawn I saw one hanging in a tree (prehensile tail — I love to say “prehensile”) with her babies clinging to her fur.  Even then I admired the efficiency of a Mom who could transport her family in either a pouch or on her back.   Their dun coloring and pointy snout, complete with 50 teeth (!) are marvels of evolution.  Constance Casey reminds us that the earliest possum was among the first mammals to walk with the dinosaurs.  So take that, T-Rex — look whose progeny are still walking this Earth!

This story made me think about all the wonders of Nature we just don’t notice.  I’ve lived in the ‘burbs my whole life and it amazes me how many of my neighbors are four-legged and furry.  I’ve seen deer out in the open during the day, and we’ve had a family of groundhogs take up residence every summer under the shed next door.  Sure, our neighborhood is a nice place to raise a family, and we all should try to get along, but there are times these creatures are not all that neighborly (when they eat ALL your produce and flowers with reckless and obvious abandon).  So I welcome the unobtrusive opossum to my environment, and encourage her to enjoy all the cultural amenities of the metropolitan area… and eat all the snakes she can find.


10 thoughts on “You Animal, You!

  1. congrats to both Jerome the possum, for his adventurous spirit, and to the NYC Emergency Service, for removing him without harm. I remember reading about the tiger – cops rappelled up the side of a Harlem aprtment building, shot a tranquilizer dart thru the window, and removed the big cat without incident. I wish I could get those guys to come to Middlesex County and do something about that raccoon that’s always trying to eat my garbage.

    1. No joke, the ES workers who remove these animals are part of an elite squad ~ The SEAL team, if you will. But when we tried our own groundhog relocation program here (our neighbor was catching and releasing them in the wilderness near his office) our township animal control folks got quite agitated and sent us a nasty “cease and desist” type of note. Seems they surmised the “mother” was still nursing her passel of wild, shiftless hobo adolescents who were supplementing their mother’s milk with my flowers.

  2. 50 teeth? i wouldnt want to be his/her orthodontist?!?!

    btw, after this blog, is J demanding equal time for the sloths?

    1. You know, for a child of the ‘burbs herself, she is into the wildlife. Or maybe she just identifies with the peaceful nature of the sloth?

  3. Possums are fierce, in a “You lookin’ at ME?” kinda way. Do not approach – repeat – do not approach. Raccoons can be quite charming and even get along with housepets, but an oppossum should be given the widest possible berth. As Agent Scully once observed on “X Files”, “You’d better respect nature, because nature has no respect for you.”

    As beautifully written as it is, Annie Dillard’s “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” took a lot of the romance out of nature for me.

    Still, to MJ’s comment: too bad those same cops weren’t the ones in Kentucky or wherever it was where that guy let all those tigers loose before killing himself. The local yahoo police just shot to kill, no attempt was made to capture them alive. Damn shame.

    1. So true on all counts. In a related story, there have been an unprecedented number of snowy owls here in the lower 48. One even made it to Hawaii — where it was shot and killed at the airport!?! Why would anybody do such a thing? Even if you had never seen an owl before, wouldn’t you just observe it for a bit?

    2. Your Pacific Northwest raccoons must be a different breed, or maybe the climate out there agrees with them. The one that rifles my trash, plundered my neighbor’s goldfish pond, and tried to break into my car (I shit u not – I’d left a tiny snack-sized box of raisins in my tote bag on the front seat) is anything but charming!

  4. Years ago camping up on Mt. Hood we had a squirrel get into the car and trashed a bunch of stuff. The raccoons out here don’t seem to go for the trash cans much, we don’t have the locking type and I’ve never had them get into mine, in 20 years of living here. I know I have raccoons living in the trees in the backyard, but they’ve never been a problem. They also don’t seem to have rabies out here, vet told me it’s not endemic in the local raccoon population (good news, indeed). I had a raccoon in my house one day (left the screen door to the back deck open, on the second floor of the house), sitting in the kitchen eating the cat food. I shrieked of course, and he sort of ambled back out and climbed down the deck support.

    1. Isn’t it crazy how they can sniff food from that far away, literally thru the walls? Our punk raccoon climbed up the wall of my detached garage the time I left the little box of raisins in the car -s/he was attempting to squeeze thru the tiny space I’d left the window cracked open (not even an inch), when Fang went out to grab his running shoes and interrupted this attempted felony. The ‘coon hissed, my husband damn near jumped out of his skin, and the next morning I found those characteristic little “handprints” all over the doorframe.

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