Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fun (?) with Possum


Can you think of another word that better applies to the lowly opossum?

Last night Baby Dog started barking. She was using the same voice she uses when she tattles on misbehaving cats. I yelled at her to stop, to no avail. Eventually, I had to stop what I was doing and come downstairs to investigate. Instead of a cat doing something prohibited, I discovered an opossum out on the back deck by the bird feeder.

“Great,” I thought, “a photo for tomorrow’s blog.” Then I remembered. My camera was still out in the car, and what were the odds the possum, faced with the constant barks of the dog, would still be there in the minute it would take to retrieve it? I decided to try anyway and rushed out to the car, sliding on the ice to grab the camera.

When I got inside, the possum was still there. Still in the same spot.  The exact same spot.

Out I went onto the deck, camera in hand. The possum didn’t move. I quick took a photo, and then examined the possum in some detail. If possums have anything cute about them, and you do have to look to see this, it’s their cute, pink little feet. I touched the possum’s toes and took a photo.

The possum didn’t move.

Just how does something this docile, this slow, this pathetic survive amidst daring and canny predators? Here’s my theory. Even bullies want to get a response from the objects of their terrorism. When the victim doesn’t do what the bully wants, doesn’t scream or cry or run or anything, even a bully loses interest. Is it possible that wild animals feel the same way about possums? There’s simply no “fun” in harassing a possum. You get more response from a snail.

Eventually, after examining the possum’s tail in my hand and moving its toes one more time, I went back inside. I turned off the deck light, put the camera away and did the few dinner dishes. The possum was still there.

Eventually it did sneak off, back into the forest. I don’t know how long it sat there before it moved. Even Baby Dog had lost interest by then.
Then I saw that its tail was a bit funny-looking. The tip was damaged. Whether it was frostbitten or simply bitten, I couldn’t tell. The possum didn’t move.


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Not exactly a thing of beauty, but still kind of cute to me. The pink toes are indeed cute. If I remember correctly, don't they have a strong musky scent? The ones I see here always loo so tatty. I can't immagine how they survive our cold temps in winter.

Elora said...

Great photos of the possum playing possum, Carolyn! Wonderful observations and you "went for it" (camera versus possible possum moving)...nothing to lose, right! Enjoyed this immensely!


Carolyn H said...

Lynne: I can't say that I've ever noticed a possum has a musky odor. Of course, I've never been in an enclosed room with them.

Elora: Thanks! It's pretty rare that I can get close enough to a living, wild creature to safely get a decent photo of it. Possums, of course, are the exception.

Woodswalker said...

Your possum was likely "playing possum," that is, going catatonic when threatened. And that damaged tail and its ears, too,were most likely frostbitten. Possums are originally from further south and haven't really evolved the fur cover that would protect their extremities from freezing. It's not very often you get an opportunity to shoot a wild animal from so close up. Nice.

Scott said...

OMG, you actually touched the 'possum? I can't believe it tolerated your touching it, even if it was docile. I have to disagree with you, though, about being "pathetic;" no creature that's well adapted to its environment is pathetic - in fact, I'm not sure any creature is pathetic at all. "Humble" or "unassuming" might be a better word to use for opossums. And, under other circumstances, I certainly wouldn't want to tangle with a cornered opossum; I'd bet it could do real damage if it wanted to.

Carolyn H said...

Woodswalker: Frostbitten was my first guess for the ratty appearance of this one's tail and ears, too. the tail especially looked that way to me. I didn't notice its raggedy ears until I saw the photos.

Carolyn H said...

Scott: this is not the first time possums have gone into that catatonic thing when I get near to them. Once or twice I've actually had them keel over and look really dead. It's always at a bird feeder, though. Not sure why that is.

Possums may not be pathetic, but they sure act in a way that's very different from the average wild thing.

Pablo said...

I understand that frostbite is a common problem with possums. That may be what happened to its tail.

Cathy said...

Yea, you had a possum too. And yes, they do have cute feet. Some do have cute face, while other only a face that mother could love.

Also brave to touch it too!