Robert’s Review: No possums were harmed in the writing of this story, and our furry friend has not been spotted since; although the sticks have been disturbed on occasion.
ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ ꚉ
Something was leaving little piles of its dietary eliminations in our garage, a structure at the back of our property which was more like a carport with a roof and doors badly in need of repair. We housed our yard equipment and my husband’s larger wood-working tools along with stacks of wood to be worked. The deliverer of these poop gifts was a mystery for months.
In the fall, after the time changed, we more often arrived home, driving into the driveway to the back of the house, after dark. One night, as our headlights illuminated the crumbling garage doors, we spotted stealthy movement as something wiggled its way into a gap in the doors where rotting wood did not quite meet the ground. It felt like a Ghost Hunters moment. If we had captured it on film, we would have played it back in slow motion. The mystery grabbed us with a stronger hold.
We were now on surveillance for a crapping, nocturnal critter. Once more returning in the dark of early evening, we were both startled as something skirted the front of the garage under our headlights and escaped around the corner into the tight space between garage and fence. Once again, we felt we had captured a glimpse of some shy, spectral creature. Next day my husband found a new friend. In the loft space at the back of the garage, a possum stood, gazing at the man as if he were the rude intruder. It had made its nest of leaves between a box for the kayak rack and another housing a decorative metal work. It was a bit of a shock even in daylight.
By the time I came home in the afternoon, my man had already called a pest control company to remove the offending squatter from the working space of our garage. The bad news came as a jolt to my senses. The man would trap the possum and then euthanize it per NC state law! And….it would cost us $350 because he had to come out each day to monitor the trap (as if we could not do that and call him to come retrieve it). Mr. Pest Control became Enemy of the People (in this house) and his services were cancelled. He insisted on following the law, a confusing jumble of if this, then that type of information.
As far as I can ascertain, you can capture an animal but cannot release it onto any public lands (fear of spreading a disease to others like it?) or onto any private property without the written consent of that property’s owner. You could be smacked with a fine and then still have the beast, or worse, the offended authority might take your cute little critter and its life.
I managed to squeeze out my objections from between my tight lips. This was not my first possum rodeo. In Houston, our neighborhood on the bayou was a roaming ground for much wildlife. I wrote a blog story about it. This Wild Life. I usually found possums, squirrels, raccoons and rats traveling the cross piece on the wooden fence which surrounded our back yard. It was like a critter highway, up and away from dogs and most cats. None of our fence freeway commuters ever invaded our living/working spaces, so we left them to their own devices, to eat our compost and hunt for ticks and cockroaches.
One day I encountered a distressing sight a short distance from the usual critter fence path. It was a very sick-looking possum, quivering on my front lawn. It was nearly hairless, its ribs clearly visible. I called the animal control division of our local city government only to be told they did not come out to remove opossums, even if they looked old and sick. This was a shock to me. Possums don’t usually carry rabies, but can be infected with distemper and leprosy. Neighbors informed me of similar stories. It seemed this poor thing had been roaming the yards of my neighborhood, dodging pets and well-meaning people. I had no choice but to leave it be. Who knows how long it lasted, suffering in this decrepit state? I told my neighbors with children to watch out for this most-likely diseased wildlife.
Amber, our friend’s dog, going after a very brave possum. Classic fence design for a critter highway.
Lacking a humane professional to relocate our garage possum, I canvassed my favorite encyclopedic font of useful and not so useful information: Facebook! I know quite a few possum (and other small mammal) hunters who gave me wonderful suggestions! Capturing a wild animal is best left to the professionals, but not when they are obliged by law to kill an obviously beneficial creature. Out in face-to-face land I was offered the phone number of someone with a large property who would harbor a small woodland critter should we find success in trapping our long-tailed tenant. I was grateful for this potential habitat as we were not sure we would be able to keep the possum from re-entering the garage, due to the open-air type construction of its preferred shelter.
In a moment of deep attachment, I named the possum Scuttles. Killing it was out of the question. We would do everything we could to keep Scuttles out of the garage and build it a small shelter for the winter somewhere in our yard, where it would feel safe from the neighbors’ dogs and cats.
In the evening my husband began to secure the garage doors while our visitor was out and about, hunting for its nightly repast. Once the doors were barred, he placed loose sticks that could easily be knocked aside by an indignant possum locked out for the night. At daylight, he inspected his security system for tampering only to find a turkey carcass at the sight of the possum’s previous entryway. If you are like me, you may, right at this moment, be experiencing a visceral reaction to hearing of this carnage. Scuttles? A killer of turkeys? Trying in the night to conceal its mangled prey in the loft of my garage? Maybe I didn’t like this possum after all.
Seeing the horror in my eyes, my husband quickly filled in some important details. It had been a cooked turkey carcass most likely retrieved from the neighbor’s trash or compost pile. Slightly appeased, I wondered why a turkey carcass would be composted. That would surely attract…bears! I vacillated between two points of atrocity, turkey killer or bear baiter, before deciding they were one and the same perpetrator, and arrived at exoneration for Scuttles. The carcass was carefully placed in the trash can.
Upon inspection the next morning, it was determined that none of the security sticks were disturbed. We found pieces of the turkey around the corner in the narrow space between garage and fence. It did not appear as if anyone had ransacked the garbage can. After searching the garage, neither possum nor turkey were found in residence. I fretted over taking Scuttles’ refuge away and started a plan to build a tiny, warm shelter fit for a relatively harmless animal in need of a place to host its holiday festivities.
When my intentions were announced at dinner, my partner in the possum rodeo questioned me as to materials and location. A scouting expedition was launched for potential location, dimensions determined, and something was mentioned in passing as to the necessity of such an endeavor, a possum being a wild animal that could fend for itself. As a rule, I generally dismiss these displays of rationality. We evicted Scuttles; we would provide new digs. Such is my compassionate logic. Possum updates will be provided.
May your opossum be warm and happy,
Guest Editor Robert loves a good possum story especially if he is involved in its making. He has a lot of patience with the plotting and planning of a possum domicile.