New Zealand has a possum problem. The island nation, which is about the size of Colorado, has 30 million possums. That works out to about 290 possums per square mile. The non-native critters “chomp on wide swaths of forest, kill millions of birds and chicks a year, and go around spreading bovine tuberculosis to cows,” reports The Atlantic.
The brushtail possums, introduced to New Zealand in the 1890s by Europeans in an attempt to start a fur industry, aren’t the same possums that dwell here in the U.S. North America. For starters, the animal we know colloquially as a possum is really the Virginia Opossum. More importantly, New Zealand’s brushtail possums are significantly cuter, what with having hair on their tails.
I’m going to on the record and just say that possums are the worst. marsupials. ever. The other marsupials are awesome: koalas, kangaroos, sugar gliders, wombats. Possums just suck, comparatively.
“Some people think of them as the world’s dumbest mammal,” critter expert David Seerveld told me, “but they do have some skills.” Mr. Seerveld, who operates a humane nuisance wildlife control business in Orlando, Florida, has removed live opossums from roofs, attics, walls, and even a car engine. He also deals with all kinds of other crazy wildlife, because, you know, Florida.
Yeah, I know opossums have skills. They have mad skillz in freaking me out.
Once upon a time, my husband took the trash cans down to the curb before work. Later, he did remember thinking, “huh, this seems kinda heavy” but it was still dark out so, you know, whatevs.
When I went outside a bit later to take my daughters to preschool, I walked past the open can and saw something…furry…on top. I peeked in and there was a possum, with that hairless ratty tail, hand to God about the size of a Cocker Spaniel. And because I’m an idiot, I thought it was actually dead. I took the kids to school, and then promptly emailed my husband at work: “you really need to tell me when there’s a dead [expletive] animal in our trash. I don’t know if the trash guys are going to take that.” He helpfully responded with something along the lines of “Hey, Crazy Lady, what the heck are you talking about?”
When the trash truck came, I ran out to warn them that there was a dead animal in our trash. Throwing feminism under the bus, I was totally I’m hoping to pull a girly “I-can’t-deal-with-this-can-you-please-take-away-the-dead-thing” move with the trash guys. However, that day there was a woman sanitation worker. Because of course. So I couldn’t even attempt the panicked-girly thing, and anyway both the male and female sanitation workers were all like “aw, hellz no.”
After I pick up the kids from preschool, of course my daughter wants to go look at the dead animal. Because really, what could be more fascinating? And in some kind of bizarro version of The Sixth Sense, she whispered, “I see it breathing.”
So now there’s a LIVE WILD ANIMAL in our trash. At that point I performed a flapping dance of panic on our front lawn. Picture a cross between Martin Short and the full-bodied dry heave that was Seinfeld’s “Elaine Dance,” and you’ve got it.
Eventually, I gathered up the courage to bring the can around back because while I didn’t want to deal with it, I also didn’t want to traumatize my dog-walking neighbors because frankly the last thing I need on top of a wild animal in the trash is an elderly guy having a heart attack on my lawn. I tipped the can on its side, ran away flapping and screaming, and hoped the the little bastard would leave. The next morning, we were delighted to find that it had indeed vacated our trash can. So yay.
EXCEPT THE MOTHERFARKING THING CAME BACK EVERY FARKING TRASH DAY FOR LIKE SIX WEEKS.
We finally got rid of it by spraying the entire trash can area with wolf pee, which is really expensive, because presumably you have to pay people a LOT to collect wolf pee.
All this is to say that I’d be totally sympathetic to the people of New Zealand for wanting to get rid of 30 million possums, even if they weren’t an invasive species. Let’s take a look at the many reasons possums are the worst marsupials ever.
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Thank you so much to David Seerveld of AAAnimal Control for allowing me to share many of the photos in this slideshow. His blog about removing creatures is incredibly entertaining and if you live in Orlando you should totally call on him the next time a weird creature shows up in your home.