10 March 2010

Lost City Opossum Sighting Sets Off Opossum Frenzy

You see an opossum on a Carroll Gardens stoop. You blog about it. People go nuts.

I just thought it was an interesting sighting. I didn't want to spark a manhunt of the poor things (even if they could be rapid, and have about a hundred sharp teeth).

Shortly after posting the item on Sunday, I was contacted by the Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens Courier, who asked for a quote. When I said they wouldn't be able to use my real name, they lost interest. But the article came out anyway today, and it sure makes it sounds like scary opossums are taking over the borough. Some choice bits:

Wild possums are destroying Brooklynites’ gardens, threatening small dogs and terrifying teenage girls.
“Last year, while walking around the [Dyker Beach] golf course at dusk, my daughter and I bumped into one. We were so scared. We’re city girls,” said Marnee Elias-Pavia, district manager of Community Board 11, which covers Bensonhurst, Mapleton, Bath Beach and Gravesend.
Elias-Pavia’s 13-year-old daughter was terrified.
“My daughter screamed and I had to grab her from running into the street,” Elias-Pavia recalled.
Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, said there have been many reports of possums in Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Fort Hamilton.
“They look like rats,” she said. “They eat fruit off of fruit trees, they burrow, and they eat food from garbage cans.”
With possums on the loose, Reeves Eisen, a rep for City Councilmember Lew Fidler (D-Marine Park), said residents must take extra precautions with their pets.
“What concerns me is we’ve been told they go after small animals. So I only take my dog out on a leash, even in the yard, after dark,” Eisen said. “Since they’re nocturnal, people are advised to be very careful if they see them during the day.”
Yikes! Run for the hills!!!

Really. "City girls," my foot. My eight-year-old son looked straight at the opossum and the opossum looked at him, and neither blinked. My son seemed bored. "Are we done looking at the 'possum?" he complained.

The article did contain a possible explanation as to how the opossums got here, though:
About 10 years ago, “There was a rat problem in Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach so they brought the possums in to target the rats,” Recchia explained. “These possums weren’t supposed to be able to duplicate, to have babies. It turns out that they had babies. Now, they’re pretty much everywhere and they’re a problem.”


Queens Crapper said...

I get a kick out of the folks who think they're some sort of mighty predator, attacking small animals and used as a control for rats. Something like 70% of their diet is carrion, and they'll make that 100% if they get a chance. Garbage, roadkill and the occasional fruit tree will suit a possum just fine. So will eating pet food, if you leave a dish in the back yard. I'm not sure why it's such a shock to people that a possum might live in a park, golf course, cemetery, etc., and that it was always there. These things are survivors. If they could survive the asteroid that knocked off the dinosaurs, making it in the outer boroughs doesn't seem like much of a problem. So tell Dominic Recchia he needs to learn his natural history.

FlooshingRezident said...

I've been seeing them in Flushing (along with raccoons) - lots of dead ones in fact. It's heartbreaking to see non-pet animals stuck in a relatively urban environment - especially one filled with so many animal-haters, such as lovely Flushing. People should enjoy and admire nature instead of figuring out new ways to annihilate it. That's my rant for the day.

Anonymous said...

“These possums weren’t supposed to be able to duplicate, to have babies. It turns out that they had babies. Now, they’re pretty much everywhere and they’re a problem.”

Considering that opossums are marsupials, and therefore biologically designed for an extremely high reproductive rate, the quoted comment is, indeed, moronic.


Robert Cashill said...

A rabid raccoon was captured at State and Nevins two weeks ago. That's some serious animal control.

Upstate Johnny G said...

Brooks, please get the truth out about 'possums. According to my vet, they are not prone to rabies. From wiki (where it has a footnote reference) "Opossums are about eight times less likely to carry rabies than wild dogs, and about one in eight hundred opossums are infected with this virus."

We raised an orphan possum a couple of years ago. When it was rescued it was only a few inches long and when we released her she was fully grown. Queens Crapper has it right....possums eat all sorts of things, including insects, fruit, carrion, and sometimes small animals like frogs or small birds, but the one we had loved yogurt, fruit, and cat food the best. If they are digging in your garden they are probably seeking out grubs and such -- the same pests that people fight with nasty poisons that are much more of a hazard than any possum.

Their teeth look sharp, but I've felt them and they are so small and close together that they don't feel sharp and dangerous. As I recall, I let the possum close its jaws on my finger and it didn't even hurt let alone break the skin. An opossum may hiss at you but that's because it's scared. Ours never even tried to bite or act aggressive in any way and we raised it around several small dogs and cats. That possum loved to ride around sitting on your shoulder!

Almost everything in that Courier article reflects ignorance and stupidity. Possums are not a threat to people or dogs or cats. People are the main threat to possums!! They are actually very gentle creatures who want to be left alone to go about their business. Instead, ignorant buffoons deliberately run over them in the street or poison them thinking they are rats. I can understand people being surprised to see an unfamiliar animal in their neighborhood, but come on people stop the hysterics. In case you have forgotten, you are supposed to be tough, cynical New Yorkies who are not fazed by anything. Stepping over homeless beggars in Midtown a block from the glittery emporiums of Madison Ave doesn't seem to affect anyone, but a tiny funny-looking animal sets off a panic? C'mon!

And I love the question: "how did possums get to NYC?" Duh! Possums were probably there before the Indians! Possums are native to the east coast. Possums won't hurt you, will probably improve your garden, will probably reduce the rat population by eating garbage rats would feed on, so leave'm alone!

Big John said...

March 17. Noticed a dead opossum in my neighbors yard this morning. Very strange since I did'nt think they existed in Queens. Guess I was wrong. The location is 31st Ave and 76th St. My neighbor had said he saw a large rate the other day but he probabely just saw this animal. Any called the proper authorities to have it removed.