Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Out of the 65 different species of opossums, only one - Didelphis Virginiana - can be found in North America. Opossums are non-territorial, exceptionally non-aggressive and non-destructive. They do not hibernate. They have a thumb. Although armed with fifty sharp teeth, they harm neither people nor pets and prefer to “play possum” whenever challenged. Mother opossums will defend their babies if threatened.

More immune than dogs or cats to many diseases, including rabies, opossums also seem to be immune to poisonous snake bites. While some people consider opossums to be ugly and stinky, these nocturnal creatures are in fact very clean and constantly grooming themselves. Because opossums breed rapidly, their species has a high survival rate. In natural settings, they choose stumps or hollow trees, haystacks, vine tangles, or abandoned burrows of other animals.

They have adapted quite well to life in urban settings where they homestead in attics, garages, road culverts, and under buildings. The opossums’ ability to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, small vertebrates, and insects also helps them survive in urban areas. They do not raid chicken coops nor turn over trash cans, dig holes or destroy plants in gardens. By devouring garden pests and preying on shrews and moles, these helpers of the environment should always be welcome in your garden or yard. If lucky, you might see these reclusive marsupials carrying bundles of leaves and stems with their prehensile tails as they build a nest in the boundaries of your property.

Posted by Diana for Margaret

Our Resident Opossums in Timothy's Garden

In front of the Manger scene in Patches Woods is an old bathtub filled with dirt, then covered with pine straw and small branches. Enterprising opossums have dug tunnels under and around this tub for their own little homes.

One afternoon, as I busied myself with raking the paths in this area and doing other noisy tasks, a somewhat grumpy opossum stuck his head out of the entrance to his home and chattered sharp sounds to me. Then he snorted and went back inside. I think he was saying in his language, “Hey, can you keep the noise down? How’s a hard working night critter like me going to get any sleep?”

I apologized and tiptoed to another area.

The first time I saw an opossum in Timothy’s garden, I was shocked at this large creature staring at me. In panic, I borrowed our neighbor’s live trap so I could return the opossum to the woods across the street from our house. I set the trap after supper that night, then went to bed.

When I checked the trap the next morning, I saw the opossum inside it. He was so big that he almost filled the insides of this trap. He was not in a good mood. Seeing his sharp teeth, I was too scared to try to relocate him by myself.

I phoned my neighbor and said, “I’ve got that opossum in the trap. Can you help me get him back to the woods?”

“Not now,” our neighbor said. “We have to go to the doctor’s and won’t be back until late.”

“I can’t keep that poor creature caged up all day,” I said. “What can I do?”

Our neighbor replied, “Kill him. Cook him. Eat him.”

Horrified at that suggestion, I called the City Zoo to see if they would come out and get an opossum, maybe for their petting zoo. They explained that they were not allowed to do that. I asked them what could I do with the opossum.

The person on the other end of the phone replied, “Kill him. Cook him. Eat him.”

I called the Humane Society. Certainly they would help me. They said they’d be glad to accept the opossum if I brought him to them. I explained that was impossible and asked what I could do with the opossum.

The person on the other end of the phone replied, “Kill him. Cook him. Eat him.”

I called Animal Control. Certainly they would come and get the opossum and relocate him. They informed me their job did not include rescuing wild life. I asked what I could do with the opossum.

The person on the other end of the phone replied, “Kill him. Cook him. Eat him.”

I went out to the trap and looked at the poor creature by this time starting to panic because of the growing daylight and the cramped conditions of his entrapment. By now, he looked helpless and frightened to me. No longer was I scared of him.

“Poor guy,” I said. “If no one will help you get back to your home, then I will do it.”

I brought over my wheelbarrow; fought and struggled to drag the trap into it. Twice the wheelbarrow tipped over, spilling the trap out to send it rolling over the ground but at last I had it precariously balanced and was wheeling my captive across our yard. Carefully, I wheeled him through our gate and across the road to the ditch. Two more times, as I struggled into and out of the ditch, the trap tumbled out of the wheelbarrow. Two more times, I returned the trap to its position.

After the ditch, I faced three rows of heavy wire that made a sort-of fence to keep cars out of the field in front of the woods. I tugged and pulled the wires apart and nudged the wheelbarrow through it. The opossum seemed to have shrunk until he huddled in the back corner of the trap. With every bump and bounce, he shrunk even more. A half-hour passed before I got the wheelbarrow across the field to the edge of the woods. With a shout of triumph, I set the trap on the ground and opened the door.

“Okay, Mister Opossum,” I sang out. “You are free! Go!”

The opossum huddled deeper inside the trap. I frowned, thinking that he was in too much shock to realize he was almost home.
I grabbed the back end of the trap and lifted it up to let gravity pull the opossum out. Mr. Opossum clung to the sides of the trap and whimpered. Desperate, I picked up the trap and shook it. Mr. Opossum clung harder and began screeching. I set the trap back down, the door clanged shut. I looked again at Mr. Opossum.

“Don’t tell me you want to stay in Timothy’s garden?” I asked.

Mr. Opossum stared at me. His body trembled. His eyes seemed to beg me for help. With a sigh, I made the long and awkward trip back to where the trap had originally been.

“Okay,” I said to Mr. Opossum. “I don’t know where you will live in here but you’re home.”

I opened the trap door. Mr. Opossum made a frantic dash for our hedge of Ligustrum bushes and honeysuckle vines. He scrambled up some branches and disappeared into the thickness of the hedge.

Isn’t it interesting how we humans so often reject the best things in life because they look too ugly or don’t meet our approval? How much happiness have we missed because of our prejudices?

Posted by Diana for Margaret

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Cat Escape Artists

People are amazed at how talented cats can be in getting away from us. Besides picking up their feet and running, they can fly, burrow, crawl through tiny spaces and even tear apart their surroundings to get away.

As soon as I took Timothy into our home, I had to take him to our vet for shots and a check up. I got out the carry case and set it on the porch table. One quick grab of him as he studied the carry case, I shoved him inside and slammed the door shut. Timothy looked at me, grabbed the wire mesh of the door with his claws and shook it violently until the door came off its hinges and flew across the room. He sat still for a few seconds, snarled at me, then trotted off. I never did get him in for his shots.

Our cats love high places for hiding, such as the eaves of our house and garage. Somehow, they reach the roof by climbing up trellises or hopping from a small building to a larger building to the house roof. Then they take a running start, literally fly from one roof to the other simply for the fun of the experience.

It is important to not let your cats hide in some areas such as a washer machine, dryer, stove oven and any electronic items. Cats find it easier to get into things than out of things. Make sure the little hiding places have escape spots.

Hiding outside is as easy for a cat as for the smallest animals. More than a few times, I have been searching the yard for our cat only to find him/her walking along behind me. One morning I heard a kitten meowing and searched high and low before finding him hiding under a magnolia leaf.

If cats can’t find hiding places on their own, they can go to cat school and take lessons, such as the kittens in our garden who faithfully observed an old feral cat show them how to escape from a live trap. Cats are not just talented at hiding, they are elusive and smart. If you happen to catch a cat, it’s because he/she wanted to be caught.

Posted by Diana for Margaret