My backyard animal farm

101_2068There’s a possum in the yard! And at least one “family” of squirrels, a bunny who might have friends, redbirds and blue jays and a pair of large birds that look like cranes building a nest in a neighbor’s tree. There are also the familiar smaller birds busy building nests, some big round bees that seem to love the space under the eaves of our home, and who knows what else. I haven’t seen a snake, but there might be one. I haven’t seen spiders either, but we do have webs. The lizards will venture out when it’s warm.

Spring – and new activity – has arrived in North Texas.

This year, however, perhaps because of our mild winter, we have witnessed the ongoing escapades of our squirrels for months and enjoyed every minute of it. We have even learned to put up with an occasional stroll through the yard by the neighbor’s cat (no, we are not cat people!) and just a couple of days ago, we were delighted to see another bunny hopping across the grass. 100_1704

About that Possum

But I shuddered at a glimpse of that possum on the patio. There’s just something creepy about a slow-moving, odd-looking, rat-tailed, fur-covered creature with mouse ears, a pointed nose and long whiskers.

So the husband did what any compliant spouse would do; he contacted animal control and made arrangements to pick up a live trap. I certainly didn’t want to hurt the possum; I just had no intention of sharing my patio with “him.”

And then – can you guess?

After a couple of days of watchfulness, and after spotting the possum on various occasions walking along the fence, climbing a utility pole and disappearing between a retaining wall and the wood pickets, we awoke one morning to find him securely trapped in the cage. Apparently the peanut butter had proved irresistible. Of course, it was Sunday and the animal control officer had advised that no one would be available to pick up the trap over the weekend.

A Case of Guilt

I worried that my possum would starve or die of thirst. He didn’t look nearly as threatening behind bars! We have a garden and we were under the (incorrect) impression that possums are vegetarians, so I suggested we offer some cabbage leaves and water. Hubby found my suggestion laughable.

101_2079However, when we were told this morning that animal control would be closed all day Monday as well, the choice was either to feed our unwilling prisoner or release him. We chose the former, and I did some online research.

And now I’m torn. I learned that the lowly possum, more properly “opossum” is really quite unique. As North America’s only marsupial, I learned that they are sometimes termed “nature’s clean up crew” and they are true omnivores, eating everything from cockroaches to small mammals to fruit and grains, and that they are essential to keep the native snake and bug population at bay.

They have opposable “thumbs” on their rear feet and they use their tails to carry burdens as well as occasionally hanging by the tail from a tree limb. Could I learn to love this relative of the kangaroo? I have had past encounters with skunks and raccoons (nasty little pranksters) and with armadillos, packrats and coyotes. At another location, we had also successfully trapped and transported another pair of possums. I remember them differently and was happy to see them depart. But this little creature? I don’t know.

101_2076I like the squirrels – their antics make me smile. And, of course, I like watching the birds. But last year, when the cranes (herons?) arrived to raise their young and flap their wings in one of our trees, they seemed to scare away the other creatures. For several weeks, the visiting bunny and the resident squirrels – even smaller birds — disappeared. Perhaps they just left on vacation, but the timing was odd and we blamed the intruder wings and their swooping flights over our yard. As fall arrived, they left, and our squirrels returned.100_1799

We forgave, and forgot.

We are set on a particular course right now, and will not be “adopting” this particular possum. Instead we will welcome occasional visits from the cottontail, be watchful for snakes in the garden, and continue to follow the activities of our friendly squirrels.

As I write this, a bushy-tailed little visitor is digging up nuts just outside my window. We will also watch those invading “big birds” and hope that they do not scare our squirrels.

Life goes on. Perhaps if another possum wanders into our yard and our lives, we will not be so quick to send him packing!

About Adrienne Cohen

For more than a decade, Adrienne has been a freelance writer specializing in travel, food and drink, small business, urban agriculture, entrepreneurship, home design and decor, construction and real estate topics. Her bylined work has been featured in numerous print and online publications in this country and internationally. Read and follow her at, or follow her here to get her thoughts on current events, modern life and the complexities of living in a fast-changing world.
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