Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Birds: Part I

I am not a morning person and for the last few weeks my dislike of getting out of bed has been intensified by the prospect of being dive-bombed by birds.

The problem started soon after the heavy snowfall we enjoyed on Christmas Eve. Following my usual routine of staggering downstairs to make coffee, I was greeted in the kitchen by a bird sitting on my coffee-maker. The bird and I exchanged puzzled looks, then the bird swooped in my general direction and flapped into the living room where it bounced off a window, squawked, and settled on the ceiling fan. I loaded the coffee-maker and returned upstairs to get my hat.

This is not the first time The Kattery has been infested by wildlife. A possum appeared in the basement a few years ago. It turns out that "shoo!" is completely ineffective when attempting to evict possums, so I called Animal Control. I was informed that possums were not included in the list of animals they controlled, presumably because possums are bad-tempered, ugly, disease-ridden beasts and Animal Control is far more interested in controlling small, affectionate puppies.

My next phone call was to my neighbor who is a Kansas native and part-time organic farmer.

"Hey Jake, there's a possum in my basement."

"Uh huh."

"I'd like it out of my basement."

"You got a gun?"


"Tire iron?"

Realizing that Kansans and Londoners had markedly different approaches to possum removal, I decided "trapping" was more my speed. Armed with a dog carrier and organic sprayer filled with soapy water I returned to the basement.

Note: I don't own a dog, but the size of my cats necessitates a dog carrier rather than a cat carrier.

The possum played into my hands at this point by running behind the furnace. Placing the open dog carrier at one end of the space between the wall and furnace, I took up position at the other end behind the possum and started dousing it in soapy water. The plan worked almost flawlessly. The possum ran forwards in the direction of the waiting trap. And got stuck. At least it appeared to be completely filling the available space and its forward progress had ceased.

Note: One cannot rule out the possibility the possum was faking being stuck and just remaining very still. I have been told they do that.

Not to be deterred I switched the dog carrier from one side of the furnace to the other and started spraying the possum from the opposite direction. The results again have a bearing on whether or not the possum was genuinely stuck. After a few good shots of soap to the face the possum began backing up. My instincts tell me that its renewed ability to move was the result of the now drenched possum being sufficiently lubricated by the soap.

Much to my amazement, some more spraying saw the possum retreat into the dog carrier. I ran round the furnace and slammed the door shut. It was at this point that I discovered possums are only slow-moving when they choose to be. The dog carrier began bouncing across the floor of the basement following a trajectory that physicists would immediately identify as a random walk.

After a few minutes the motion of the dog carrier had subsided to occasional jerks, so I decided it was time to return the possum to the wild. Picking the carrier up produced a new round of high-speed possum activity, but for the first time in our relationship I finally felt confident that I was in charge of the situation and got the possum outside. I unlatched the carrier door with a broom handle, eased the door open, and ran indoors.

The whole procedure from possum discovery to possum liberation took seven hours. But once complete I felt a sense of accomplishment, particularly because I had neither shot nor clubbed to death the possum, as is apparently the tradition in this part of the world.

I imagine there are Kansans who can recognize individual possums. Indeed some in the heartland probably keep them as pets. I confess that, to my eyes, one possum is indistinguishable from another. Consequently I am in no position to say whether the possum I found squashed in the street a couple of days after this episode was "my" possum or one of its cousins, and whether I simply imagined that it was emitting a faint aroma of soap.

1 comment:

  1. I had a similar experience with a black snake.