I’d ask “What next?”…

…but I’m afraid to know the answer. Seriously, we do not live in “the country.” But I have never lived anywhere else in suburbia with this much wildlife.

We were working outside on Saturday, taking a break from yard drudgery to set up our side patio, when this little guy appeared out of nowhere and wandered across the driveway.

A baby possum — maybe 6″ long (+ tail). By the time I got the camera, he had made his way across the driveway and was starting up the steps toward the backyard.

He wasn’t happy when we approached. He’d get all snarly and show his teeth. Pretty fierce baby.

You might remember these lovely possums that took up residence under our shed last year. (We don’t know if they made the hole in the floor or were merely taking advantage of it.)

Those babies were bigger than our little guy, yet still with Mama.

So, we wondered if our little guy was orphaned and possibly ill. He was moving mighty slowly, and why was the little nocturnal fellow out during the day, in the hot sunshine?

We didn’t know much about opossums, and I was thinking, “Cute, but not in my backyard, please!” I was full of suggestions that involved Mike putting on his gloves and depositing him near one of the massive woodpiles in the junk-neighbor’s yard. I also wasn’t anxious to watch him die in front of us.

After a few jokes about “adopting him as our own,” we did, at least, get him a little drink.

After we backed away, he had a sip.

Then he slowly made his way up the stairs, through the garden, and under the deck to the shade.

Poor baby.

I imagine he won’t make it. Mike did some research last night and along with finding all sorts of information about nurturing possum foundlings or injured adults (wow — very detailed info — God bless animal lovers who take this on), he also found many interesting facts we didn’t know. Typically, possums live in mama’s pouch (how did I not know we had marsupials in this country!?) until age 2 months or so, and then often ride on mama’s back while they’re out and about. They aren’t really ready to venture out on their own until 3 months or so. Also, they are short lived — only a 2- to 4-year lifespan. They have a very low incidence of rabies and are partially or totally immune to rattlesnake and other poisonous snake bites. The “playing possum” response is involuntary (they have no control over it) and it renders them unconscious anywhere from 40 minutes to 4 hours! Babies’ brains, however, aren’t always fully developed to allow this response when threatened. “Our” baby reacted appropriately by opening his mouth and quietly hissing.

Oh yes, Mike also found some recipes…[insert Clampett reference here]. Possum grease apparently makes a fine chest rub.

These incidents always make me sigh — we are not very prepared to deal with critters or our ongoing Tales of the Backyard Menagerie. This summer’s chapter still includes a groundhog (at least one) also living under the shed (I startled him while he was happily eating weeds behind the fire pit and he scooted right for the shed) and a mole or vole and chippies living in the brick pile near the birdfeeder. Also spotted a pair of Baltimore Orioles yesterday, which was at least pleasant.

I do know a lot better than to ask, “What’s next?” I’m remembering too well that skunk family we surprised outside our back door one night a few years ago and have not seen since…

Interruptions can be viewed as sources of irritation
or opportunities for service,
as moments lost
or experience gained, as time wasted or horizons widened.

They can annoy us or enrich us, get under our skin
or give us a shot in the arm.

Monopolize our minutes
or spice our schedules,
depending on our attitude toward them.

~ William Arthur Ward

P.S. A Sad Footnote: I found the little guy dead in the yard — 15 ft. from the deck — not long after finishing this post. I feel bad we saw him at all (10 minutes’ difference and we never would have spotted him) and bad we couldn’t help him more. Nature — or perhaps Life, if there was some human intervention that led to the little guy wandering alone — sure is sad sometimes.


  1. Anonymous said,

    Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Survival of the fittest, I guess.

    We are 3 to 6 miles from the city limits (I should really find out how many exactly), and I am always amazed at the deer I see in the woods behind our house as well as behind the houses across the street. Once I was driving down my street and three deer were just walking along the road, just any other family might take a stroll. I much prefer deer to the little critters, so long as said deer stay away from my car!

  2. facie said,

    Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 11:00 am

    The comment above was not supposed to be anonymous. New (to me) computer, which no longer has my stuff saved. As much as I am frightened by what a computer remembers, it sure is convenient sometimes! 🙂

  3. WritingbyEar said,

    Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Thanks, Facie. Glad it was you (though I was a little excited thinking I had a “new” reader…yeah, right.)

    Speaking of computers — I just discovered this morning that this post mysteriously had the commenting feature turned off, though I didn’t do that. Took me a while to figure out how to turn comments back on. I hope I don’t have to remember to turn them on every time from now on!

  4. loverofchrissy'scakes&scones said,

    Monday, May 30, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    I think it sweet you documented his existence which would otherwise have gone unknown. A nice tribute to the poor little fellow!

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