The evening light had faded, and darkness had fallen upon the autumn landscape on the other side of the window in front of my desk. Pudge, my massive, black tomcat, was impatiently waiting for me to drop into the chair. He wanted to settle onto my lap and take his evening nap while I cropped today’s photos. It had been overcast all day. The pictures were few, but as I fired up my computer, I swiftly realized that the most interesting photos of November 15th would be taken after dark. It started with a violent rustle of the lilac bush outside the window, followed by ghostly movement, then stillness. A few moments later the bush began shaking a second time. Again the ghostly shape appeared. Thinking that this apparition was the reflection of one of the other cats slinking about somewhere behind me, I turned. Pudge and I were alone in the room. I turned back and gasped as I realized that I hadn’t emptied the new bird feeder shelf outside the window. Staring at me through the glass were the dark black eyes of a full-grown opossum.
Opossums are a common sight in the Northeast. We see dead opossums on the right side of the road, dead opossums on the left side of the road, and dead opossums in the center of the road, but seldom do we see them live. This would make the second live opossum I had seen this year. The first was seated in the center of a back country road giving himself a bath. He looked up and hissed when my headlights approached, then went back to bathing. This probably explains why we see so many dead opossums.
I turned off the lights, grabbed my camera, and began to snap photos while repeatedly scolding myself for my oversight. That opossum could have been the bear. My own words came back in a scolding echo, “Leave your bird feeders run completely empty at night or take them inside.” https://thesquirrelseye.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/save-money-get-a-guard-bear/
The opossum is America’s only marsupial. (The female carries and nurses her young in a pouch.) They feed upon almost anything they can scavenge. They are not above raiding your compost pile, sharing lunch with your cat, or feasting on carrion. An opossum is also a resourceful hunter and feeds upon insects and small rodents. Using their hunting skills and their appetite for garbage and carrion, this unbelievably clean creature helps curb the spread of disease throughout the ecosystem.
I am told by an expert that I greatly respect that the opossum is a very backward and gentle creature, in spite of those razor-sharp teeth that it bares when it hisses at you. But to be honest, opossums give me the creeps. With beady, black unemotional eyes, a pointed nose, and a long, naked tail an opossum resembles a giant, gray rat, but there is something disturbingly prehistoric about their appearance. Perhaps it’s their dead, unfeeling eyes, or the dragon talons, gracefully adorning their scaled leather feet… Or maybe it’s their “I’m not afraid of you” attitude.
The opossum stayed outside my window for five or ten minutes while I snapped photo after photo, until growing irritated with the flash, he crawled off the shelf and back down the bush. I suspect he will be back, but next time the feeder will be empty. I am not feeding that bear.