Thursday, February 7, 2008

Happy Year of the Rat!

Not a rat,
but on St. Patrick's Day, isn't everyone at least a little bit Irish? This is one of the opossums who frequented our yard in Albany, California. At first they were a novelty, so I took a lot of pictures. This was long ago in the age of film. When I went to the photo store to pick up my prints, the man behind the counter plucked the envelope from the bin and frowned at it. "Why you take so many pictures of rats?" he asked.

I became somewhat a fan of opossums, even though they were an introduced species in California (native to the eastern U.S.). I would meet them at night as I jogged around the neighbourhood, sometimes literally tripping over them. They have a funny walk, as if their feet hurt. When confronted, they open their mouths threateningly, and hiss.

For opossum fans, and those who have not met an opossum and wonder what it's like, Monarch's Nature Blog has a neat piece of video.

Happy year of the opossum, er, rat.

6 comments:

BerryBird said...

I got a huge kick out of the photo clerk story, and had to read it to my husband. I have a soft spot for possums... When I was a very small little kiddie, my county had no wildlife rehabilitator. My folks worked at a nature center, and we would often take care of the creatures people brought in for a few days until a placement could be found. The possum was tame, an abandoned pet, and very cute. Of course we kids called it O.

Wanderin' Weeta said...

"I've never seen a purple possum,
I never hope to see one ..."

Old photo? Or have I gone colourblind?

Actually, I've never seen any possum at all. And I would like to see one.

Watching that video, it seemed to me that I'd been had; all the possums (possi?) in the books are so sweet and cute; this real guy is anything but. Snarly and awkward, looking like his body is too long for the undercarriage, and his feet are going to trip each other up.

I still want to see one sometime, though.

Hugh said...

BerryBird,
They can be quite charming, especially when they're little. They have a crazy stare that makes me laugh. How lucky to have that experience when you were a youngster. It's a sad and worrying thing that these days so few children are imprinted on (inoculated with?) nature.

Weeta,
You're probably right. I don't remember it being purple. It's a scan of an old slide. The animal in the picture was a young of the year. There was also an old scary one who would visit who resembled the one in the video. I've never seen a live wild one in BC. I've seen their remains on the highway though, from Langley to Chilliwack. (They have never really figured out cars.)

pookie said...

Our possums in New Zealand are from Australia, apparently imported in the 1860s to establish a fur trade. Well, what a mistake, as they're now the most destructive pest (to native forest and ground-dwelling birdies) imaginable. All and sundry are encouraged to kill them year round. Even the local grammar school has a "dead possum dress-up day," where kids bring to school the expired possums they have trapped or shot, dressed in elaborate costumes. Photo op in the local paper, and a prize for the best costume. lawdy! Here's a link for what our possums look like -- very different from the ones I used to feed in NY state: http://nzpossumproducts.co.nz/

Hugh said...

Yes Pook, they're not very closely related. In my opinion the Aussie possums are cuter, but that matters little when they're consuming your songbirds. (Please, not the kiwis too.)

For the fur? Makes one crazy.

An isolated island is like a toddler lacking an immune system. You have to fight the invaders as if your life depends on it.

mon@rch said...

Ya, they kinda do look like a large rat! Thanks for the link and glad you enjoyed the post!