Possum 1, Garden Professor 0

It was a dark and stormy Wednesday night.

Joel opened the porch door and whispered “you’ve got to come see this.” He’d taken the dogs out for their 9:00 p.m. constitutional, and there was apparently some excitement under the old apple tree.

“There’s a possum, and I think she’s playing dead.”

I grabbed the flashlight and hustled out.  Got around the corner to the tree, and sure enough, there was a rather large blob of silver and white mammal.

But as I got closer, my heart sank.

She was curled up, head askew, front leg sticking out at an odd angle.  Lips (?) pulled back , teeth and gums bared in a terrible grimace, tongue hanging out the side.  I shined the flashlight right into her eyes. No movement, no pupil dilation.  Being from a farm in Georgia, I claim the most possum and raccoon experience. Thus, my verdict. Deader than a doornail. Which made me sad.

“Aargh. Thanks. Now I’m upset.  Guess she got hit by a car and made it this far before expiring.  Could you put her out at the end of the garden? The soil’s pretty soft there.”

Joel apologized and went to get the shovel.  I scuffed back inside to finish the dishes, feeling awful for the little critter.  Thanks to our impenetrable hen stockade, we live in pretty good harmony with our country cousins, and hate to see harm come to them.

Ten minutes later, Joel was back at the door, shovel in hand.

“Um, I think it was faking.”

“No way. That possum was graveyard dead.”

“Well…it seemed to be o.k. enough to be sitting up and eating an apple.”

We hiked back out to the tree – no possum to be found.  My wildlife cred was blown.

“Looks like she was playing possum” I offered, helpfully.

Joel muttered “But I just dug a three-foot-deep hole.”

8 thoughts on “Possum 1, Garden Professor 0”

  1. My first experience with a possum was I was in the garage at night for some reason. I wondered why one of the cats was sleeping on the stored Adironack chairs when I realized it wasn’t a cat but a possum. Screaming ensued as I was pretty close to it. I grabbed a ski pole and straddled the bumper of the truck and the recycling bins poking it to move from the chair. Ran under car, well waddled actually. Got the garage door open and it did run out rather quickly. Learned not to keep cat food out in a dish as possums love it.

  2. An excerpt from William Alexander’s excellent book The $64 Tomato, which is eerily reminiscent of my own close encounter with an oppossum in a Havahart trap.

  3. Ha! Thanks, Linda. Poor Gail…”That’s not the cat…”
    The hole will probably remain open until the next hen kicks the bucket. It’s in the middle of our veg garden (“dust to dust…to zucchini”). Ray, I love that book. We caught a skunk accidentally in a Havahart trap once. A sticky/stinky situation indeed.

  4. Last month I encountered an adult possum in my backyard laying prone on the ground. After very gently prodding it with a stick I decided this animal wasn’t “playing”. I used my pitchfork to scoop it up and remove it from the yard. The possum’s body was rigid so I figured it was in rigor mortis. Please don’t tell me that possums can play dead so well that they appear to be in rigor mortis.

  5. I had a similar experience with a squirrel recently. Our Brittany spaniel was carrying it around the yard. I made her drop the squirrel and prodded it a couple times. No response. Figured Daisy had broken its neck. Reached into the garage to grab a shovel and came back just in time to watch it scurry up a tree.

Leave a Reply