Thursday, March 11
A Wapathemwa in My Can
This morning I had a surprise in my garbage can.
This morning I walked out to the barn with Snowy in tow to 1) deposit the garbage in the can and 2) to let Snowy do her business. Nothing unusual about this. What was unusual however, was that when I opened the top of the garbage can/tote, it hissed at me.
I looked in and noticed a ball of grayish fur curled up next to the only bag of garbage currently in the can and further looking revealed a nasty looking, pointy face with pretty sharp looking teeth. He was flashing me a toothy grin that seemed to say "Hey, this is my garbage. Go find your own."
Well, I hate to break it to you, Mr. Opossum, but this WAS my garbage and my can and unless you want to meet an unfortunate end in the back of a Waste Management compactor truck come Friday, you will get your furry little butt out of there.
He didn't seem to understand my ultimatum.
Here is what happened: I have always told Roy to make sure we close the tops on the totes because we have a ton of bird nesting in the barn in the warmer months and sometimes the babies, in first attempts at flight, end up in the bottom of a tote and they cannot get out. Yesterday I noticed that the top was open and I closed it.
He must have been in there, snacking, and I didn't discover him until this morning.
He was not a happy camper.
I put Snowy in her pen, grabbed my camera and snapped a few quick pics. Then I closed the lid and gently tipped the tote over and placed it on its side. Then I opened the top a ran up the driveway fearing the revenge of a very pissed off opossum.
But he was happy to stay in the tipped over tote and I went in the house. Tonight, it is still tipped over and I am not going out there to deposit the evenings cat little scoopings. That little bag can sit by the back door and Roy can inspect the tote to make sure it is vacant before I take out any more garbage.
In looking around online (trying to figure out if it was 'possum' or 'opossum') I found quite a few sites devoted to all things opossum. Everything from rising them as pets to trapping them and eating them.
Turns out, the American species is called 'opossum', where as the Australian clan is just plain 'possum.' One of the more positive opossum pages is HERE. This will probably be the first, only, and last time I ever link to an opossum page.
The word opossum comes from the Algonquian "wapathemwa" meaning "white dog". Ironic, since I have a white dog. When threatened or harmed, they will "play possum", mimicking the appearance and smell of a sick or dead animal. The lips are drawn back, teeth are bared, saliva foams around the mouth, and a foul-smelling fluid is secreted from the anal glands. Well, that explains the nasty little grin he gave me, and as far as the gland thing goes, I am just glad he was already in the garbage can.
Opossums have a remarkably robust immune system, and show partial or total immunity to the venom of rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and other pit vipers. Opossums are about eight times less likely to carry rabies than wild dogs, and about one in eight hundred opossums are infected with this virus. That’s good to know, I guess.
I have learned more about opossums today that I ever thought I would. Most of it is contained in this post and here ends my journey of opossum studies.
Unless he has decided to camp out in the tote in which case he will be meeting Roy and the snow shovel tomorrow. (Not to hurt him, just to hurry him along).