Things that Go Bump in the Night

SONY DSC In the many years I have lived in my Vermont home, our yard has been home to many creatures  -- skunk, deer, weasels, even moose. With Vermont being a largely rural state this may not seem that strange, but we reside on a very busy main street not far from the downtown. Although those of us inside the house never saw the moose, we’re told he was standing on our front lawn looking directly in our living room windows and gathering a crowd of spectators on the street. The weasel I saw years ago when my cat, Mime, a ferocious hunter, dragged it inside. It was lean and white and as big as the cat that killed it. The deer have crossed our lawn many a time, but the most magical occasion was the Christmas Eve, Alfie and I witnessed a herd crossing the backyard. Skunk are omnipresent. One year, however, we had a whole family invade the back lawn – a mom and three babies. The babies were so little that they became a spectacle for the neighbors who would show up out back with their cameras to take pictures. I didn’t mind at first, but after the mother died – hit by a car – I became extremely upset and worried about what would become of the babies. I wanted to capture them in a Havahart trap, but found out that this is discouraged as skunk can carry rabies. I didn’t have time to try because soon one baby after another died, either hit by a car itself or caught by a predator. The last I found in a far corner of the lawn. I donned gloves and placed the remains in a box and buried him in a cardboard box not far from where I found him. Vader always loved baby skunks. Once on a walk he shuffled up to one giving it Eskimo kisses. I often looked out the kitchen window to the backyard and found him doing the same.

With all this wildlife surrounding us, you would think I wouldn’t be surprised to find a furry visitor in the night, but this is not the case. The other night I went to let the pugs out the back door to use the bathroom, and at the bottom of the steps was an unexpected site – a large, furry possum with cute little pink nose and rat’s tail, feasting on the remains of dog snacks the pugs had left behind. It was big and fat and despite the rat-like tail really quite adorable. I had only ever seen one other possum in my life while visiting my sister-in-law’s hometown of Ogdensburg. We were in the park taking a walk late one evening and when I turned around there was one behind us. I think we took off at a run. That creature I remember as being hideous, but maybe since there was a door between me and the one that turned up the other night, I really didn’t think she looked too bad. I grabbed my camera and snapped some photos before googling possums and learning that as far as having wild animals in the backyard goes, they are not that bad.

It seems they have a low chance of carrying diseases such as rabies and distemper and are only vicious if they are cornered or their young threatened. That was the official word. There were also lots of horrifying YouTube videos of people discovering possums in their underwear draw and being attacked while in bed. Our visitor wandered off before we could decide what to do, but she’s been back at least once more. All the information I can find says that if you remove their food source, they will eventually go away. We have only one problem. My mother seems to be that food source. For months I have been trying to get her to stop throwing snacks out for the pugs to get them to go outside, watching as their waistlines disappeared over the winter. My pleas have been to no avail. Surely, she’ll stop now, I thought as I read to her the solution for ridding our yard of the possum. Just as she had when I warned her to stop feeding the pugs, she wholeheartedly nodded in agreement only to find her just as enthusiastically throwing out handfuls of snacks, the next morning. Then last night the possum returned – just as cute, just as nonchalant, but maybe, just maybe a wee bit fatter.