I learned that joeys are only about as large as a jellybean when born. They crawl to Mama's pouch and attach themselves to a nipple until they are about 50 days old. Then when those inside sleeping arrangements get too crowded as the joeys grow, at 80 to 90 days, they hitch a ride on Mama's back. Mama not only has to still carry them, but she also must teach them how to find food and shelter. Since opossum's active hours are at night, this Mama must have been heading home, ready for a nice nap.
I was also pleased to read that opossums are supposed to be a good thing hanging around backyards. It is estimated they kill 5,000 ticks a season. Since I'd already separated several ticks from human flesh this spring, I welcome Mama and her babies to dine in our yard every night. They're also known for catching and eating cockroaches, rats, and mice. And my favorite reason for having them around is that opossums are resistant to snake venom and prey on them. I'm rooting for you, Mama Opossum!
We've lived in our current home for a good seven years. It has an open lot on one side and a wooded area behind us. Except for an occasional frog or snake that has gotten into our window wells, we've felt fortunate to have other critters visit us. When we first moved in, we often saw deer nibbling on the trees behind our property. A few times, deer vaulted over our fence into our yard.
Wild turkeys also roamed the neighborhood during the day and roosted in giant cottonwoods at night. And it wasn't unusual to hear the yipping of coyotes or sometimes the hoot of an owl when we were lying in bed. When Ron set up a trail camera, it recorded a fox that used the same path our opossum uses now.
However, now our area is more populated with human critters, so we don't see as much wildlife as we once did. Sometimes that's a good thing because one of our morning encounters was an unwelcome guest.
Ron was having coffee on the patio. I had just stumbled out of bed, thrown on a robe, and went out to tell him good morning. As I turned to go back inside the house, I saw something stir behind a wicker patio chair I had just walked past. When I got a closer look, I panicked! There, a little black furry creature with a white stripe running down his back seemed unaware of our presence. But he was between me and the door I needed to return inside.
We debated the best course of action as Ron tried to keep me from further panic. He went first, gingerly stepping past our visitor without incident. When he was safely behind our glass patio door, he tried to coax me into joining him. It took a while, but I had no choice but to go on the same path. I was only two feet from Pepe Le Pew when Ron opened the sliding door, and I ran into the house. After I was safely inside, we realized if Pepe had seen us, he might have scurried inside with me.
This spring, we've mostly been entertained by the many winged friends that whistle, trill, tweet, and sometimes jeer in the trees behind us. It often becomes a cacophony when their birdsongs combine. However, they are sometimes silenced quickly if a hawk crashes their party by sneaking up on them silently.
Ron and I are no longer farm kids. But when nature's critters visit us, it makes us feel we have found the perfect place for our home in the city.