Meet the new neighbors: opossums

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Oct 12, 2015 in Rat News | Subscribe

DEAR JOAN: For many weeks, I had a rat nesting in the shed surrounding my PGE box. Not my favorite rodent, but it looked very peaceful.

Imagine my surprise one day to see that “Ratty” had been replaced by an opossum. A few days later, there were two opossums, snuggled up together.

I gather that opossums are opportunistic, taking advantage of a ready made home.

I really like my new neighbors.

Anne Dudman

San Jose

DEAR ANNE: An opossum does sound like a better neighbor than a rat, although I don’t want to malign pet rats; folks tell me they make wonderful companions.

Nesting opossums.

Opossums are indeed opportunistic, moving in to empty burrows or finding homes in tree hollows, rocks and other places that afford them warmth, protection from the rain and safety.

Safety is key for them, so they often move dens every few days. But as the weather gets colder, a female with offspring often hunker down for longer periods of time.

From your photo, it appears that you may have a mother with one offspring. The opossums are born just 12 days after conception and they then spend a couple of months in their mother’s pouch.

By the time they are 4 months old, they are ready to make it on their own. I’d say your young opossum has yet to make a complete break, but should soon.

DEAR JOAN: What is the official rule on killing rodents in the Bay Area, specifically squirrels?

One person told me that they cannot be killed and another told that they can be killed by a pest control company. My local garden supply sells poison and traps, but they could not answer the question either. What is the actual rule state?

Ron I.


DEAR RON: Let me first recommend finding other ways of dealing with squirrels before turning to lethal measures. Controlling them will be far easier than killing, plus squirrels are a valuable part of nature.

State game laws say if Eastern fox squirrels are causing damage, you can trap and kill them any time on your own property. The Eastern squirrels are non-native and experts consider them the bigger pest in the home garden.

The native Western gray squirrels have some protections. You can only kill them during hunting season, and you must have a hunting license.

Hunting season for Western gray squirrels runs from September to January, and there are restrictions on how many you can take in a day.

If you want to go lethal on the squirrels, you’ll first have to determine what ones you have and then take steps to make sure you don’t kill the wrong one. Failure to do so could earn you a fine.

The state also mandates how squirrels can be killed. You cannot legally use poisons. Not only do they cause a lot of pain and suffering in the poisoned animal, if another creature — a raptor, a dog, a cat — should eat the dead or dying animal, the poison is transmitted and another creature is killed.

Doesn’t it sound a whole lot easier to try other methods for controlling them? If you’ll tell me specifically the damage they’re causing, I can offer some ideas that might at least make things better.

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