Wednesday, October 05, 2005

From the not-Pogo Pages

Much crashing around in the undergrowth last night, so I went out with a torch & found a young possum prowling. No O in front of its name as its American cousin has. Yes, Virginia, there are marsupials in other parts of the world, & one is even named after you.

& my taxonomic skills are not great, so I couldn’t tell if it was a brushtail or long tailed, though I’d go for the latter because of (a) the length of its tail & (b) the fact that it didn’t confront me with that gargling growl that brushtails have.

Under the torchlight it quietly came down from the orange tree it was trying to climb & then sedately walked up the driveway before scuttling away as soon as it reached the corner of the house. Later repaying us for its illumination by calling in its friends & holding races up & down the corrugated iron roof for half an hour just after we’d got to sleep.

There have been possums in most of the places I’ve lived in in Australia, sometimes even living in the ceiling cavity above our heads. Let me just say that possums are noisy fuckers. Literally.

In New Zealand I didn’t see all that many of them. Here they are looked on as cute little things, almost in the koala league – though if you see the claws on them, & the way they look at your leg as a possible means of getting closer to the food you may or may not have in your hand for them, cute is not the first adjective that springs to mind. But in New Zealand they are a matter of major concern.

They were introduced there as the foundation of a potential fur industry. Escaped, of course, & took to the wild. But they’re a disease vector, a reservoir of tuberculosis, with the potential to decimate the dairy industry which is one of the main contributors to the New Zealand economy.


Anonymous said...

I had possums as pets. there was Pig, Oblina, and one named possum.

Geof Huth said...

Oh, possums. The southern (American) boy's least friend. I found a nest of two adolescent possums once (in Tennessee). They were already wild, all narrow snout and sharp teeth. I tried to tame them, but had no luck. They would jump and cringe and hiss whenever I entered the room they were in. I let them go when they were full grown and fully mean.

I've only once seen a possum play possum, and that was in the backyard of my house here in the small city of Schenectady, New York. My three dachshunds surrounded a possum and he tried that as a defensive maneuver. (Hey, I like it better than when they confront skunks in my backyard.)

Sometime, I think my city shouldn't be so full of animals, but I rarely see possums this far north. But just the other night, while pulling into my driveway at night, I saw a big possum dash away from my wife's car and into the protective night.