Thursday, November 08, 2007

Oh! Those opossums!

Oh my! My heart has been stolen! Stolen by five funny, smelly, wonderful little two month old opossums!

They came into my life because a friend had found them, not abandoned but lost - their mother had been hit by a car and they were left wandering the street. My vet's secretary took them in and forced fed them until they were 3.5 inches long in body length until six squirrels were given to her to raise, too. I said I would look after the opossums and I knew they were almost ready to release....

.... but then I fell in love....

I picked them up and carried them about and they found that sitting on my head was the best place to be... second to finding a pathway through my hair.

I fed them dog food (wet and dry), apples, bananas, peas, beans, seeds, sow bugs, crickets on the hoof, worms from the garden, flies, grubs, and my favorite - cheese. They would grab with their dexterous hands their slice and chew and chew and chew and chew.... My next favorite food to give them were small snails. They would crunch and crunch and crunch....

Their jaws do not 'grind' their food like a cow or horse or even like us. Their bite is more like a lizard (on a couple of occasions once when one was frightened by something and another time when my finger smelled of food), biting straight down with a strong squeeze. Their tongues move their food around inside their mouths until the juice is squeezed out and swallowed. The solids are spun within their pointed shaped jaws and their very masterful tongue until the shape of the bolus is in a possum sized cigar, which is THEN swallowed. Lots of good food falls from their mouths eating in this fashion... but is then eaten by the next happy possum who does not have to work so hard to fill its tummy. Many times the possums would try to steal food from each others' mouths in the process of chewing.

Cheese is such a funny substance and they love it! Cheese really doesn't have much moisture so the jack cheese is studiously worked on for many many minutes. All five possums facing in various directions chewing and grasping and licking..... I have to say, it is much more amusing to watch opossums eat cheese then a dog with a tongue full of peanut butter or even.... a goose with a bill full of peanut butter! All of which I have observed.

Possums greet each other by touching noses after some huffing sounds. Everyday, I would call their names (BABIES!) snuff a bit by their cage and they would come to me to touch my nose with theirs. (- NOW! For YOU who are reading this....I would not do this with a wild un-introduced opossum!!... they might try to eat your nose! - ) And when I let them wander my yard they would come back to my back door to say hello... where we would do our greetings ("BABBIES!" snuff snuff, 'bump nose'). One little male called to me when he got worried (it sounded like a sneeze) and I would call back with kissing sounds - which seemed to calm him.

Well, tonight, I had to let them go out into the wilds of the San Gabriel Mountains. They were still sleepy from a big meal of cheese, apples and wet dog food. It was dark and I drove them to a place where there were still some people about (forest rangers and others who care for the Angeles Forest) but not too many. I put some dry cat food on the dirt and left their smelly blanket for them to return to if they got cold. The little guys had more then doubled in size and were ready to explore this world.... but it was hard for me to say 'Good-bye, Babbies!"

Be safe little Guys! And have many more babies!

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