Amid the chaos of working in the L&D discipline, funny things happen. Many have absolutely nothing to do with my job, but have everything to do with learning about living…and in this case…learning to let live. Another true story about a brush with nature and really sharp teeth follows.
When I was growing up my mother exposed me to an obsession of hers – feeding the birds. I must confess I have carried on the tradition and have several feeding stations around the yard and hanging off the ends of the deck. The birds seem to appreciate the gesture and word soon spread around the bird community that our backyard holds a well-stocked feast. Somehow “other creatures” overheard the chatter, and intruders came crawling in during the dead of night to raid the banquet table.
I knew I was dealing with a big possum because my wife spotted him waddle out from underneath our deck early one morning and head down into the tall grass along the scenic creek. My immediate fear was the potential for a possum to harm one of our cats, not to mention the potential for introducing rabies into our little ecosystem. The possum had to go.
The raids were sporadic at first, and upon finding feeders on the ground, my first thoughts placed blame on the wind for blowing them off their hooks. When I found a rather large feeder dragged into the scenic creek [a.k.a. drainage ditch] on the edge of our property, I realized the wind had nothing to do what I now recognized as outright vandalism by a four-legged party crasher.
In other words, the gauntlet had been thrown.
Possum 1 – Gary 0
The challenge before me had a logical solution; lash the feeder that had been ripped off a hook with bungee cords. Making it harder to steal seemed an appropriate measure to take. The arrangement was not very pleasing to look at, but if the possum could get that feeder loose now, he truly earned a belly full of sunflower seed. He did…and he did eat his fill.
Possum 2 – Gary 0
For a couple of days I flirted with just not refilling that particular feeder as it was the only one under attack. To fill the void, I bought a couple of cage type feeders that held compressed bricks of a sunflower mix and one specifically for woodpeckers with compressed chips of corn. Both bricks were about the size of a hefty dictionary, and the cages that held the bricks hung from hooks that I attached to the center post on the feeding station. I’m not sure what mixture was used to solidify the bricks of compressed bird food, but whatever it was proved to be a possum favorite. The woodpecker feeder got ripped off the hook, and $10 of woodpecker food was gone; the cage feeder broken.
Possum 3 – Gary 0
Chances were good I would’ve tried more bungee cords to wrap the cages to the post, but when my wife shared her observation on the whole conflict, things turned from defensive posturing to a more offensive outlook. She said, “Looks like your possum is kicking your butt, sweetie!” At that point, it was game on!
Choices of offensive weaponry ranged from inflicting a terminal case of lead poisoning with a brand new .40 caliber handgun to lacing bait with rat poison since a possum looks a lot like a really big rat anyway. Then I thought about what I’d say when the cops showed up at 3AM when I’m blasting holes in the night trying to shoot a possum and not one of our cats; though blowing Bob away has crossed my mind once or twice. Bob is…well…never mind; Bob is another story one of these days.
Poison would pose too great a risk as well because Bear, the stinky little yip-yap dog next door, would probably eat it and croak on my neighbor’s deck. Once again, I could see law enforcement looking to me for an explanation. My offensive options that did not include jail time seemed to be shrinking.
After further consideration and a strong desire to avoid incarceration, I decided I would go old-school and trap the sucker in a small animal trap. I’d do the humane thing and take his sorry possum butt out of town and into the woods to introduce him to a brand new home. The whole trapping thing sounded reasonable and easy. Not so much…
Nearly a hundred bucks later I was the proud owner of a Hav-A-Hart small animal trap designed for cats, possums, raccoons, and other small animals. When I read the label, Bob came to mind, but figured not even Bob was stupid enough to go after bird seed in a cage with only one way in or out. But then if I got up early enough and found Bob in the trap, there could be a rapid relocation opportunity at hand.
The trap is placed at the scene of the previous crimes. Half a cake of woodpecker seed is strategically placed just beyond the pressure plate that springs the trap and slams the door. Simple. 1-Set trap. 2-Add bait. 3-Sleep. 4-Wake up. 5-Take possum in trap to Timbuktu and release him. I had it all figured out.
Steps one thru four worked to perfection. My wife awoke before I did and was standing by the window that overlooks the backyard. “Honey, it looks like your possum has smoked you once again.”
Possum 4 – Gary 0
[Expletives uttered have been deleted] Not many of the people I know enjoy losing, much less getting skunked by one of the ugliest, stupidest animals on this earth. There is no question that I am among those people. When I dressed and went down to inspect the trap I found the trap door sprung and the bait long gone. I could only consider that this had to be one really strong possum to break out of a steel wire trap and trap door that locked when it was sprung. Slowly I looked toward the scenic creek with a growing feeling of dread; theme song from “Jaws” played in my head; I was going to need a bigger boat.
The next night I placed half a cake of suet in the cage and mashed it into the steel mesh so there would be no easy theft, plus digging around to eat it would surely spring the trap. Next morning I awoke first and found the trap still set and every trace of suet was gone.
Possum 5 – Gary 0
Being at the top of the food chain [at least when not swimming in the ocean], I resolved to catch this vermin no matter what. After investigating why the trap door had been overcome, I took a pair of pliers I bent the door latch just a hair so it would fall securely in place when the trap was sprung. This possum was going down, and I set the trap once again; the other half of the suet cake was in position.
The next morning my wife greeted me at the window. “Maybe he’s just sick of suet.”
I muttered my way out to the trap and sure enough; the suet was still there and the trap still set. Could it be? Maybe he moved on. Maybe he choked to death on the first half of the suet cake eaten the night before and died of natural causes. I looked toward the scenic creek and snorted. Chest may have puffed out a bit too, but why not? Domination felt good.
Possum 5 – Gary 1
I took that night’s results as a win. Ding dong the rat is dead…and yes, one of the voices in my head was singing that song. The top o’ the food chain prevailed, and I had proof because the feeders hung unmolested for over a week. Then things changed. Something ripped open the woodpecker feeder despite the added bungee cords wrapped around the post. Here we go…
Possum 6 – Gary 1
I dragged the trap back out and baited it with the only thing I could find that a cat or a stupid dog might not find interesting – a banana. Yeah, go ahead, my wife laughed too. Hey, possums are bottom feeders, so I figured a nearly rotten banana from the bottom of the fruit bowl in the kitchen would be sacrificed for the cause.
The next morning I still had not captured a possum, but I had managed to capture a fairly large raccoon. That would explain how the bungee cord lock-up rigging had been so cleanly picked. Coons are pretty handy with their paws, but still not very bright given I had one in the slammer in sole possession of a rotten banana and busted with the goods in hand.
Gary 1 – Raccoon 0
So who’s skunked now? Yikes! Now that I mention it, I’m really glad it was not a skunk in the trap. Who would be crazy enough to get close enough to let him out? I sure as heck would not be moving the cage and relocating a skunk to greener woods. The possibility of the intruder being a skunk was in my blind spot. Wow! This all could have gone terribly wrong. But it didn’t, and I ultimately proved to be smarter than a raccoon; small consolation after getting spanked 6-to-1 by a dumb-as-a-rock possum.
Despite capturing that raccoon there remained a lingering question. What happened to that big possum my wife saw? Had it been a raccoon raiding the feeders all along? The answer to those questions can only mean one thing – bagging a single raccoon likely does not mark the end of this story.
Bananas…I need more bananas…
Reader footnote: The raccoon was successfully relocated into a remote wooded paradise in the rolling hills of southeastern Indiana, miles from my feeders, and with no harm done. Of course the coon family unit may have been compromised, but I know where I dropped him off and his kinfolk, should they have a craving for bananas, may join him directly.