There was a creature in my backyard, hissing at my cat. It was the size of an extra-big housecat, but it had a rat-like-tail, evil-raccoon-like-hands, and the mouth of a tiny crocodile, full of frighteningly pointed teeth. From the way it was gnashing those pointy teeth at my one remaining cat, I think this creature might have been Stripey’s killer.
It didn’t flinch when I threw Sophie’s biggest ball at it, a four-foot-wide purple plastic ball.
It didn’t flinch when I nudged it with a broomstick. In fact, while I went to get a shovel, this teeth-gnashing creature slinked ever closer to the patio where Sophie was sitting. I had put my cat inside, but it hadn’t occurred to me to also put my toddler inside.
Sophie said, “I’m scared. It scares me in my bellybutton.”
What kind of creature comes out in broad daylight and doesn’t flee from a shouting, ball-throwing, broom-wielding Momma? I scooped this nasty thing up with the garden shovel, and it wriggled off, but it did finally take a step or two away. Then it stopped again. Stupid crazy probably-rabid creature. Eventually, I got it on the shovel and pitched it over our fence, out of our backyard. Then I placed stones below the fence, vainly trying to seal up the many gaps that any creature can crawl through. Then I moved Sophie and her dinner inside.
From my shovel-throw, the creature had landed in the ice-plant outside our backyard fence. It lay there a while, maybe dazed, maybe injured. Maybe just playing possum. Because when I checked google images, that’s what it turns out this aggressive creature was: an opossum.
When I checked out front again, twenty minutes later, the possum had creeped across our front grass, heading towards the front door.
So I tried the good-liberal method: I phoned San Diego county animal control. I got a long recorded message: “If you are calling about a rattlesnake, press 1. If you are calling about a dangerous mountain-lion encounter, press 2. If you are calling about a non-dangerous mountain-lion encounter…” By the time the recorded message informed me that I should call the county trapper, I had gotten the clear impression that no one is open at 5:35 pm, and, anyway, no one cares about any measly possum.
A brief google-search informed me that possums are easy to trap. But then what do you do with them?
So I did what the movies have taught me to do. I walked up behind it with the shovel and hit it over the head till it stopped squirming.
I think that is the first non-insect creature that I have deliberately killed.
It scares me in my bellybutton, indeed.
And now I have to figure out what to do with the dead possum that is lying under the pepper-tree in my front-yard.
UPDATE: Handy information to know, just in case you, too, ever murder a probably-rabid possum: the thing to do is to shovel it into the street, because the public authorities will only pick up dead animals if it’s on public property. Fortunately, my local parks department is fabulous. They actually left me a phone message, encouraging me to just kick the carcass a few feet over, so they could pick it up. And now it’s gone.