Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Possum Party

By Kathleen

The wildlife in Australia is endlessly fascinating to me. With no indigenous mammals accept the dingo dog (or so I’m told) the creatures that inhabit the land are new and strange to me. Being as isolated as they were from the rest of the world, Australia’s animals evolved in special and unique ways.
Most of the warm blooded ones are marsupials ( the kangaroo) or monotremes ( the platypus). They all seemed to have evolved to be especially adorable, which I’m not convinced is the best survival strategy.

I often wonder what the first European explores thought of the wildlife and how they described it back home. There are birds that sound like demons in the woods and rainbow colored parrots. There are strange warm blooded creatures that lay eggs, and then there are the famous kangaroos which have heads that look like deer, eat grass, hop like rabbits and are as big as a man. I wonder if anyone believed them at first or if people just nodded and smiled and thought “ that’s what happens when you drink too much salt water”.

Most cold blooded animals seem to be some degree of poisonous.  So in Australia I have made my own categorized of wildlife, cute and deadly. Lets hope I don’t find something that falls in both of those. ( Thinking about it kangaroos do fit this as they are cute but if they jump into the road while you are driving they can be deadly, it’s like hitting a deer… that hops.)

I so far have been lucky enough to see some wild kangaroos up close, well, not too close and even encountered one of those poisonous snakes. There are road signs that warn of wombat and koala crossings but we haven’t actually seen one yet.

Then, last night, I was taking a shower in the bathroom when I heard this group of kids with accompanying mothers come in. “ Where is it honey?” one of the mothers asked, “ Up there see.” A child responded, clearly afraid. I was toweling off so I stopped thinking ; where was what.. hopefully nothing poisonous…

I asked them what it was “ There’s a possum!”. I thought for a second with the accent that they said python which would have been cool, but then I remembered that I don’t think they have those here. “ Oh a possum” I replied and hurriedly dressed as they discussed a way to remove the hapless fellow.

Now I grew up with cats, outdoor cats, and anyone who has ever had one will know that they bring you “presents” often still alive for your pleasure. So I’ve seen my fair share of scared bunnies and birds and chipmunks and the like, oh and I love rodent like creatures. The kids thought I was hurrying to get dressed and escape, I was hurrying to get dressed and see the little guy.

There it was up in a corner of the bathroom, looking like a thief caught I the act, all big eyes and scared face. The poor thing was obviously terrified and upset that its dry warm evening home was inhabited by us. The ladies and kids went off to find some men to clear it out all the while shrieking about how ugly it was. I went to get Fiz to show him how freaking adorable it was.

The men got a broom, which really didn’t seem necessary and attempted to brush  out of the loo but it kept evading them until it ran to where Fiz and I stood cooing. “ Go that way” I told it and it seemed to understand because it followed where I was pointing to and escaped.

Possums back home are sort of like big cute rats, they are generally white and have whip-like tails and little fangs. They get hit by cars a lot and strangely they also play dead when they are scared. So generally unless you catch one scurrying around your garage this is what they look like.


This is an Australian possum. Now as yourself, would you sweep that out with a broom!? Adorable.
Australian Brushtail Possum by Michael Humphrys





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