Bogue: Opossums don’t need relocating

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on May 1, 2013 in Rat News | Subscribe

Gary’s been taking a break and returns on Thursday. We’ve been printing some of his columns from the past. Today’s is from Nov. 16, 1995.

Dear Gary: What can you tell me about opossums? How well do they climb? We have a 6-foot fence around the back yard. I’ve seen this animal on the roof of our storage shed (eating bird’s bread) and around our fish pond. I don’t think it has caught any fish (the water is over 2-feet deep), but it tears up the potted plants I have in the pond around the edge.

If we decide to trap it, what could we put in the trap to draw it in?

Allene Breen,


Dear Allene: I’m not going to tell you. Some of my best friends are opossums and they’d never speak to me again if I helped you do that. Besides, if you live-trapped your opossum and dumped it out in the country, it might get frightened and run across a road and get hit by a car. Or get chased off by the opossum that already live there and end up wandering around for days.

A new opossum would just take over its old territory anyway. And you know what else? Maybe even two new ones might move into your yard. Opossums have friends, you know.

Suppose these new guys were worse than your present opossum that’s afraid of water (like most opossums)? Suppose these new opossums liked

to swim and catch fish? See what I mean? Believe me, better the opossum you know, as they say.

Can opossums climb? Like monkeys. They have prehensile tails and four little hands and a mouthful of 50 sharp teeth (the most of any mammal in North America). They can hang onto things like you wouldn’t believe.

And they can leap 6-foot fences in a single bound. Well, actually a whole bunch of little bounds, but I think you get the picture.

You can get them to stay away from your potted plants by poking a little wooden stake in the ground between every other plant or so, all around the pond. Then tie a swatch of cloth on each stake and spray dog or cat repellent (they both stink) on the cloth.

Those long opossum noses are very sensitive to that stuff and they’ll stay away.

Maybe you should put some extra bird bread up on the shed for the opossum because of that stinky trick with the potted plants. You don’t want it to think you don’t like it, do you?

It’s really easy to hurt an opossum’s feelings.

Dear Gary: When my son was young he had a pair of domestic rats that I took care of. One day, the mama rat gave the daddy rat a real talking to. He cowered in the corner. The next day the mama had seven little babies.

I was more excited than when my son was born! I called the neighbor to find out what to feed the mama so she could have a nutritious diet while she was feeding the little ones.

I know that pet rats make great pets. All the others, mice, etc., bite. Rats don’t!

Jean Evers,


Dear Jean: Rat mamas are the greatest animal mamas in the world.

When I used to raise orphaned wild critters back in the good old days when my hair wasn’t gray, and, ahem, when I had hair, we used to use mama rats as foster parents.

I remember putting under their care baby gophers, field mice, newborn ferrets (!), a baby long-tailed weasel (adult weasels eat rodents), and once even a newborn great horned owl chick. The owl chick obviously didn’t nurse (ouch!), but the mama rat cuddled it and kept it warm with her other babies while I was being a proud owl foster dad and taking care of the feeding.

That maternal instinct is one powerful force.

Contact Gary Bogue at; or write Gary, P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.

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