Wed 4 Apr 2007
One of the odder events in this long-running saga called Nature’s Two Acres occurred Saturday night. (The two acres, of course, is my pasture surrounding this cabin in the hills above Point Reyes Station.)
It all began when Dee Goodman, who is visiting from Mexico, and I went out on my deck at twilight Saturday to enjoy the view. For a while, we sat on patio chairs drinking coffee, but as the evening grew chilly, we went back inside.
While outside, I had set a nearly full mug of coffee on the deck, and probably because Dee and I were talking when we went indoors, I forgot to take the mug with me.
As it happens, I drink my coffee with a fair amount of those sweet, flavored (hazelnut, vanilla nut, or crème brulée) creamers made by Nestle. I am not alone in enjoying coffee thus diluted nor — as I’ve now discovered — is my species.
Later last Saturday I was working at my computer when around midnight I went downstairs for a bite, and to my surprise, a possum was on my deck lapping up my forgotten coffee. Before long, he had emptied the mug. I wasn’t worried and laughed to myself that if a possum could digest roadkill, it could digest a mug of coffee.
Still writing in my loft at 2 a.m., I went back down to the kitchen, and as I headed toward the refrigerator, I immediately spotted the possum. It had returned and was now outside my kitchen door.
It’s fairly common to see a possum scurry when scared, but I can’t say that I’d ever seen a perky possum before. One mug of coffee, and this little guy was wired.
The possum was pacing back and forth outside my door, climbing on and off the railing, and occasionally poking around my covered firewood (above). Again amused, I decided to give the perky possum a slice of bread. The possum started when he heard me unlatch the kitchen door, but rather than scurrying off, he made a dash toward the opening.
From what I’ve observed, possums don’t see diddly squat at night (although they’re supposed to) and depend almost entirely on smells to guide them. I’m not at all sure this possum even saw me, but he sure smelled food in my kitchen. I had to bean him with a piece of bread to keep him from running into the cabin.
As he ate it, I tossed out a few more pieces and he spent the next 10 minutes running around the deck, sniffing for crusts.
The moral to all this, I suppose, is that if your neighborhood marsupial is too prone to playing possum, just serve him a cup of coffee.
SparselySageAndTimely.com previously quoted Point Reyes Station naturalist Jules Evens as saying, the “common opossum” is not native to California but rather the Deep South and was introduced into the San Jose area around 1900 “for meat, delicious with sweet potatoes.” By 1931, possums had spread as far south as the Mexican border but did not reach Point Reyes until 1968.
Luckily for possums, the Point Reyes National Seashore hasn’t any plans to exterminate the hundreds, if not thousands, of them in the park although like the white deer they’re not native.
When the National Seashore opened in 1965, possums were just arriving in the park while the non-native white (fallow) and spotted (axis) deer had been living on Point Reyes for 20 years. But unlike the white deer, the public hasn’t shown particular interest in possums, and the National Seashore administration in its perverse fashion targets its eradication programs on non-natives that appeal to members of the public.
Why? It’s simply a matter of Calvanism reminiscent of the Puritans’ ban on bear baiting (siccing dogs on a chained bear). The Puritans weren’t particularly upset by cruelty but didn’t like to have the public enjoying itself so much.