Dear PoPville – My Morning with the Opossum of Shaw

“Dear PoPville,

I’ve had a strange morning over here in Shaw. I went out for my run and the neighbor next door told me he saw some “big raccoon” try to get into my front door and then it felt down into a window well where the basement windows are (I have no idea what that’s called). Thinking it couldn’t get out from there (it was a four foot climb – stupid me, I forgot opossums are pretty tactile little things), I called animal control. Well, within 20 minutes this thing is back on the street. My neighbor managed to lasso this thing with a little bit of clothesline. I called animal control back and they told me I should just let it go. I told them we weren’t really near Rock Creek Park or anywhere where a opossum should actually be, but she told me that raccoons and opossum have learned to adapt to an urban environment and I should let it go and that’s what they would do if they came there.

So my neighbor walked this thing down a nearby alley and let it go near an abandoned lot with some grass. What does PoPville think? Should animal control have taken this thing and set it free in a more appropriate environment? Or were my neighbors and I foolish to interfere with this majestic creature’s Monday to begin with? It mostly just amazed me that animal control said to let it go and offered no more advice than that. I’m also sorry in advance for whoever walks down that alley next and loses their shit when this thing scampers around.”

65 Comment

  • An opossum trying to get in a house and animal control didnt think it might have rabies?? Your neighbor was foolish to get involved with a wild mammal that is acting strange. Especially since the picture you took indicates that it was pretty late in the morning.

    • Why would you assume it had rabies? If I was a small rodent, I would rather live in someone’s basement in Shaw than on the street! Seems perfectly logical to me! πŸ™‚

      • It is important to know that opossums are much less likely to have rabies than most other mammalian species (likely because of their lower body temperature, though they have pretty impressive immunities to snake poisons too). So the assumption that it has rabies is a very poor one to make.

        Opossums are well adapted to urban living, so animal control is totally appropriately saying to just let it go.

        • Opossums are marsupialss so they are neither rodents nor mammals. Rabies is extremely rare in in opossums.

          Opossums (and raccoons) live in storm sewers and come out at night and around dusk and dawn. They do sometimes live in or around houses. I wouldn’t want them near my house but if it’s just walking around, it’s best to just avoid it. They’ll go back to the sewers soon enough.

  • This was around 8am. Originally it had gone under the front stairs and was sleeping, but the front door slamming apparently woke it up.

    I was worried about the rabies part of it too, until Wikipedia, arbiter of all things knowledge, informed me that:

    “Opossums have a remarkably robust immune system, and show partial or total immunity to the venom of rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and other pit vipers.[4][5] 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.[6]”

    • All of that may be true, but opossums do carry rabies at some point, and if an opossum came knocking at my door at 8am, I wouldnt assume he was looking for a hot breakfast.

    • I’m very confused…you were worried originally because the animal was stuck in the windo area, so you called animal control to help free it. Then it freed itself and you got upset because your neighbor captured it and animal control told you to let it free?

  • Just leave them alone, pretty crazy to risk getting bitten, scratched, or sprayed or something by lassoing it and then releasing it. Better opossums than rats, at least they’re an indigenous species. I’d only call animal control if the animal appears to be injured, suffering, etc. if it was stuck in your window well, I would have just put a box down there so it use it as a step and then go on its way.

  • Did your neighbor remove the rope before releasing the possum? If not, it could choke.

    • Yep, he did remove the rope. And half an hour later on my walk to work the opossum was still sitting in the corner we left it in.

  • Honestly, it sounds about right to me. I’ve seen a juvenile in my backyard a couple of times. It doesn’t bother me, and I don’t think they’re known to attack people.

  • That’s strange, because when I called about a raccoon staggering about in the morning sun, animal control was out in under 10 minutes. I figured it was because I used the R word. Raccoons are also less likely to carry rabies than dogs.

    I probably wouldn’t have touched the possum. I’m a hardcore animal lover, but those things give me the heebie jeebies. Let the cars take care of it.

    • I think the fact that is was staggering around in the open in the middle of the day indicated there may have actually been a problem. Scampering up a tree at 11 PM would have bee different I think.

  • Sounds about right. I live in Bloomingdale and I frequently see opossums. If it had rabies you probably would have known because it would probably be pretty aggressive. And I feel like I’ve read someplace that opossums don’t really get rabies anyway? He’s probably happy to be back digging through people trash cans πŸ™‚

    I would laugh so hard if I saw someone walking down the street with a possum on a leash

    • houseintherear

      Yep, they’re all over the place in B-dale.

      When my dog caught one last year and ripped half its face off, Animal Control came just to make sure it didn’t need to be “put down”. The man left it in my yard, playing dead, and eventually it moved on. He told me they do not move most animals, especially possums, because it only serves to disrupt their lives/habits/living arrangements. Makes sense to me, I guess, but it was kind of weird with the bleeding possum hanging out back there for a few hours. πŸ™

    • Can we talk more about how your neighbor lasoed the thing? And do you have action shots of the rodeo going down? That’s very impressive!

      • exactly!

        definitely the most interesting part of the post.

      • No action shots, unfortunately. Here’s a re-enactment of what the video would look like:

        [Terrible shaky cell phone footage that doesn’t really show anything]
        Me (in background shrieking like a little girl): Oh shit, oh shit. Don’t do that. Jesus, don’t put your hand near that thing’s mouth. Oh shit. You’re crazy.
        [End scene]

      • hahahahahha

  • Opossoms are all over DC, we regularly have them in our alley in Parkview. If you move them to a park, they’ll just come back. Leave them alone and they won’t bother you – but they’re pretty vicious buggers with sharp teeth if you try to handle them. don’t leave food out for cats (which only attracts vermin, and makes raccoons/opossoms associate people and houses with an easy meal) and keep your trash in a container.

    Otherwise enjoy the urban wildlife!

  • This guy was up way past his bedtime but apparently doesn’t mind humans too much if he didn’t his or gnarl at you and didn’t “play possum.”

  • There’s good eating on one of them. Could be the next step in urban sustainable farming.

  • Just an FYI – we had squirrels invading our house about 2 years ago. They were crawling in through a small opening in the masonry on the roof of the building and making a lovely little home in our attic. We called animal control to pick up one we managed to corner in our bathroom, and they said that they are required to release them within a 2 block radius of where it was found. Because the animal can have a young ones, and because of territoriality, they can’t be taken to Rock Creek, etc. Unfortunately, even if they had taken this one away, it would have just been back tomorrow!
    Also, totally normal for squirrels, raccoons, etc. to find an opening and get into the house, so you need to check your roof and the upper parts of the house for any way into the attic or basement, because they will find it.

  • Cornered one myself on my back porch, really amazing their around. My alley abuts Lincoln Theater, nothing green around.

  • They’re kind of like a big ugly squirrel- even stupider though, so pretty harmless. But they are SO ugly. In any case, they are totally “appropriate” in the city, although I might have called animal control if I saw one during the day–depends how early you were out–but now that I know they can’t get rabies I would be even less likely to harass it.
    I did see a really huge one in one of the mini-trees in a mini-house’s mini-yard on Marion St. in Shaw- it was right at my eye-level, about 4 feet from my face. Did not like. Maybe it was the same one?

  • From experience, Animal Control will give you the “urban raccoon/opossom” line if you contact them about something like this, even if you mention the possibility of the animal having rabies.

    If it’s really bothersome to you, you can always get traps and release them into a more hospitable/ less urban environment on your own

  • me

    Only slightly related- my gramma, who was born and raised in a hollar in WV, decided to keep one as a pet a few years ago. Weirdest looking thing I’ve ever seen, but she loved it.

    • My Grandmother-in-law lives in a hollar in WV as well. Went to visit her for a few days earlier this year. It was very different but a nice change of pace. Couldn’t believe how they drive in the mountains.

  • If there is any way you could post a video of your neighbor walking the possum down the street on a string….please do so ASAP. The mental image alone is cracking me up.

    • It wasn’t walking it so much as dragging it. Kind of the way they do with that bulldog at Georgetown basketball games when they drag it across the court on its face. We didn’t drag it on its face though. That likely would have made for an aesthetic improvement.

  • My parents were feeding an outdoor litter of kittens at their home in Iowa. Eventually, the family of kitties was joined by a possum, which we named Cletus. Cletus ate right along side the kitties. Soon, my parents made the kitties indoor pets and Cletus wanted to come inside too, but my parents drew the line at that. Possums won’t harm you or your animals as long as they don’t feel threatened. Most of them just want some food in their belly.

    • To add to the Iowa and opossums stories: when I was a kid, we had an outdoor cat. The cat had a little cat house outside by the front door. One spring, we noticed that the cat wasn’t in the cat house – a mom and her 6 babies had moved in. πŸ™‚ They stayed for a few weeks before moving on. The babies are cute even if the adults aren’t!

      • And yet another Iowa possum story: I went out to the backyard one night with a flashlight, looking for our black cat. I thought I saw something move so shined my light that way and found a possum instead. That thing scared the crap out of me! What was worse is that it was two feet behind my cat, who hadn’t even realized he had company.

  • This post clearly missed the lede. Someone lassoed an opossum.

  • It seems like Shaw was all raccoons at my old place; now that I am in Eckington, all I see is possums. I have a completely half-baked, pure-conjecture theory that possums and raccoons, being somewhat the same in niche, divide the city up like organized crime, or gangs, and have defined territories (this could account for some of the critter-fighting noises I hear from the alley by my house some nights).

    I think, rabies aside, they are modern city creatures now, like foxes in London.

  • Well, if I had been in the situation and had the time, I probably would have stuck it in a box and delivered it to Rock Creek Park myself. Opossoms may be habitated to living in urban environments but it doesn’t mean they’re good neighbors. I assume most of their food comes from trash, which means they’ll be rooting through the garbage and scattering it around. That attracts rats and other vermin.

  • My friends have a colony living under their pergola in Brookland. We learned this when our very sweet lab/pit mix bolted from the pergola into the yard during an outdoor dinner this summer, only to return with bloody jowls.

    That possum got delivered, but not to Rock Creek Park.

  • We had one in the house for several days one year just before Thanksgiving and didn’t know it until there were footprints across the pumpkin pies that were sitting on the counter. Fortunately there was plastic wrap on top – so we had interesting decoration.

  • I’m surprised the neighbor was able to move the possum at all. I would have thought it would have played dead. We once had one on our back porch who had inadvertantly gotten cornered by our blind/deaf old poodle. We called animal control who said get the dog out of the way and don’t go near the possum or it might play dead and be there for a few days. So we didn’t, and the possum left of his own volition. If they have volitions.

  • I can only imagine the shrieks of terror that would ensue if my girlfriend walked out into the street and that thing greeted her arrival. That creature belongs in lord of the rings.

  • I keep waiting to see if Claire posted a recipe. Not yet?

  • Heh. That’s the definitely the chubbiest little possum I’ve ever seen, and growing up where I did, I’ve seen a few. Evolve to live with humans indeed.

  • Yeah, the little curl at the end of his tail (most of the ones I’ve seen had straight tips on their tails) makes me think this little guy might very well be the same one who decided to “occupy” my recycling bin a few months back when he was a lot smaller for about a week. I called animal control, and they told me to leave him alone, and I did for about five days, but finally I had to recycle things and get these things out to the curb, so I had to evict him from his little encampment. I just (gently) dumped the bin over, let him slide out, and put the bin back next to him. He finally wandered off later that night.

    I’ve spotted him, or what I think is him, a couple times with the curly tip on his tail around the neighborhood. He interacted with people a lot as a baby (if it’s the same little guy), so it wouldn’t surprise me you got him lassoed. I’ve often wondered if his lack of a healthy fear of people (I’m more afraid of people than he is!) wouldn’t end up getting him killed someday.

  • we all SHARE a world. I understand being surprised when the everyday environment changes – think about how the lil possum felt! I would take it as a compliment that the possum had a choice of all of the thousands of houses in Shaw and he like your’s best!

  • Had an oppossum under our house in Petworth last winter. It eradicated the mice we had been battling over the summer. Seems to have driven the rats out of my neighbor’s yard too.

  • Reminds me of when I was in the basement doing laundry and heard a scratching noise against the window. When I looked up there was a female opossum munching on a half eaten apple. She had a crapload of babies piled onto her back. All I saw was her face and a bunch of little furry squirming eyeballs staring at me through the window. It was a sight I’ll never forget.

  • My neighbor found a squished possum in the street in an intown Atlanta neighborhood. She looked at the corpse and realized the possum belly was moving. So she pulled little possum babies out of the dead mama. Fed those babies with an eye dropper every half hour for days! And she had to stroke their little possum bellies to get the milk to go down.

    Unsuccessful parenting. They went belly up.

  • PDleftMtP

    Yo, kids, whatever Wikipedia says, if you see an animal that’s somewhere or somewhen it shouldn’t normally be and it doesn’t seem afraid of you, you probably want to leave it the fuck alone. Not worth the risk; erratic behavior is a big flashing red light.

    And hey – let’s be careful out there.

  • Leave this critter alone. You built a city in its back yard

  • No Vincent, we built this city on rock n’ roll!

    The last thing you want to do it get bit by an opossum…vicious things. They will pretty much leave you alone and man, you do not want to get sprayed by those buggers…talk about stink! Sort of like skunk-lite.

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