Thursday, September 15, 2011

Adventures in the Garden - Creature Edition (warning - more poop references)

OK - brace yourself. I'm going to get all "homeschool-y" on you.

What is this creature? mmm hmmm, you think you know don't you.

the scary possum
I wasn't fast enough with the camera to capture our visitor, but this is what was in our back yard a few nights ago.
 This is not a "Possum". (Putting on my teacher glasses) "The correct name for this noctural animal is 'Opposum'". What was he doing in my backyard? The poor thing was probably hunting for water. Texas has had an extreme drought this year. It is the worst drought on record. My bird bath probably seemed like an oasis.

Their ability to survive and adapt to awful conditions makes opposums amazing creatures in my book. In our Apologia science studies last year we got to learn a little about them. I didn't know the extent to which they play "possum". When scared, their body becomes stiff as if in rigor mortis, they emit a foul odor similar to that of a decaying body and foam comes out of their mouth. They are able to stay like this for long periods of time.

They are not related to rats. They are marsupials (they have a pouch for their babies). They have a high level of immunity are not known to carry rabies or other diseases. In fact they are more resistant to rabies than any other mammal. It does not hang by its tail (despite what Disney says).

The opposum diet is quite revolting. They eat anything rotten, bugs, rats, over-ripe fruit, worms and dog poop. Our backyard was a banquet!

Speaking of poop... that's how we knew he was visiting. We found a little "evidence" on our back porch. I guessed an opposum or racoon based on the tracks in my garden (although it didn't eat anything). We turned on the porch light that night to see eyes gazing at us from the top of the fence. A little research found an easy method to discourage nightly visits. We just kept our porch light on for three nights in a row and it hasn't come back since. Here are some more safe methods of discouraging opposum visits. They are effective pest eliminators and mighty fine santiation workers. However, I don't want tracks through my garden!

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