Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Swimmer

Well, we found an opossum on a mooring ball yesterday. We did. I had just picked up Hunter at the town dock and on the way back to the float he said, "There is a possum right there....on the mooring." I followed the trajectory of his index finger and sure enough, there was the poor creature clinging onto one of Long Point's square blue-foam mooring markers next to Can 21. It was funny. So I decided to report this thing to Don Beers, the Harbormaster. The call went something like this:


DB: Harbormaster.

JB: Yes, I'd like to report an unauthorized mooring tenant in the harbor.

DB: Say that again? What?

JB: Yes, there is an individual of an unauthorized species that is occupying a guest mooring in the bay. Can you do something about it?

DB: What?!

JB: Don, there's an effin opossum clinging to this mooring ball next to Can 21!

DB: I'll heat up the oil....

...ok, so you get it. Actually, Don called animal control. Skip then appeared and I pointed to the sorry creature. He looked at it and bent over in laughter, which made me bend over in laughter. Funny.

Before animal control arrived I managed to track down David Grossman who was able to snap a few pictures of the opossum.

How did he get there? I have no idea. Some people guessed that it was on a boat and jumped off. Others think it simply swam out there. I think it swam and got a little disoriented.

But while we're on the subject, here are some facts about opossums:


• Opossums lived during the Age of the Dinosaurs... fossil remains have been found from 70 million years ago! This means that the opossum is part of the Earth's oldest surviving mammal family.

• The opossum doesn't have a permanent "nest" because it is nocturnal and transient. It will spend and average of 2-3 days in the same hideout, then move on. Some weeks later it may return to your place, depending on your hospitality.

• Opossums have soft, rounded opposable thumbs with no fingernails, on their hind feet.

• Opossums do not dig holes, as their paws are very soft and tender, much like a human hand.

• Opossums may drool, growl and show their 50 teeth when frightened, but in reality are placid and prefer to avoid any confrontation.

• They are slow-moving with very sensitive hearing and smell, opossums are not territorial and will adapt to any environment where food, water and shelter exist.

• Opossums do not hang by their tails-the tail stabilizes their position while climbing and walking.

• Besides their natural predators in the wild, humans, cars and cats are the demise for this docile creature. Very few survive to adulthood, and usually live only 1-2 years if they do.

• "Playing Possum" is one of the most effective ways the opossums defends itself. When unable to flee, extreme fear places the opossum into an involuntary coma. They become stiff and their mouths will gape open. This condition will last 40 minutes to 4 hours. Most predators will abandon their attack, once the opossum is thought to be dead.

• Opossums cannot jump. An opossum may get into a trash can only if it has been knocked over by another animal, or if it's against a fence and the opossum drops into it, which can trap the opossum in the trash can. Just tip the can over and eventually the opossum will scramble away.

• Opossum fur coloring is most commonly gray, but can range from white and cinnamon to black.

• Baby opossums are usually born between the months of February and June.

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