‘Can’t survive winter,’ but some do manage
By Bert Raynes, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
October 24, 2012
A dead opossum was found in Jackson Hole a short time ago. No previous records of this animal in northwest Wyoming were known. Indeed, no opossum in nearby Idaho, Montana and Utah. Nebraska has a population.
Isolated reports of out-of-range animals or birds are almost always greeted with skepticism, if not outright ridicule. And with good reason: Misidentifications are made, a kept creature escapes, the animal or bird arrives by inadvertent transport in a motor vehicle or trailer. A notion that the critter got here on its own is often dismissed out of hand.
And sure, the notion of an opossum as an inhabitant of our region seems unlikely. “Can’t survive the winter here.” However, Meg and I remembered experiencing identical disclaimers when we and some other nature watchers mentioned seeing live or dead raccoons here. “Never last through a winter,” was the complacent response. Well, raccoons are established now. Winters are warmer than they were 30 to 40 years ago, and that’s a possible cause. (I wonder if raccoons could survive here if there were no human habitators.)
Opossums are unusual. They are marsupials, the only such in North America. Marsupials are animals having no placentas; instead, females have pouches on their abdomens that contain teats and serve as carriers for the young.
Possums grow to about 36 inches in length with a prehensile, hairless, ratlike tail. Ears are also naked. Furry, grayish and a white face. Up to 20 young born 12 to 13 days after mating; each youngster about a 1/2 inch long. Each one smaller than a honeybee. Each little young one makes its way to the brood sac and attaches — if it can — to one of 13 teats. If unlucky at that, it perishes.
Opossums eat almost anything organic. Will feign death if threatened. Hunted where common and favored as a food item by many people.
For their part, opossums like nothing better than to eat eggs. That’s what we need here: another critter that will reduce various bird populations. Jeepers.
You will vote on Nov. 6 or perhaps have already recorded your decision, expressing your opinion and sentiment. Excellent. Now comes a chance to realize you’ve missed another opportunity to give your comments on a current situation. Missed, unless you can get a missive into the Wyoming Game and Fish Department by the close of business Oct. 24. That’s today, publication date of this edition. Good luck with that.
I’m sorry I didn’t know about this request and this closing date, although I do not accept responsibility for being unaware. It was only a couple of days ago that I learned that Game and Fish is proposing five options to increase its funding for wildlife management and conservation.
The five options are a license fee adjustment, a big game license super-raffle, separate white-tailed and mule deer licenses, annual or biennial license fee adjustments tied to inflation (indexing) and increased revenue from Wyoming Wildlife Magazine’s public conventions.
The department has a web page you can still get to, perhaps, but in the time it takes to go there, an afternoon might slip away: WGFD.wyo.gov/web2011/wgfd-1000880.aspx.
I suppose one of my comments is that the Game and Fish request for comment, not to mention its “Funding for the Future” initiative, never came to my attention. Or perhaps yours.
Afterward: Taking into account the agitation over wolves in our environment, the $18 fee for a Wyoming resident to kill one seems a lost opportunity for revenue.
Of course, any revenue gain from one fee on any animal won’t solve a state agency’s funding needs at all, but it has to help a much as raising the subscription price of Wyoming Wildlife Magazine.
On the national level: Does it please you that after years of running for or defending the presidency, spending close to a billion (!) dollars on campaigning between them, it may all come down to which guy wears his tie correctly in a face-off on television?
What a way to select a president and his party’s principles.
Field Notes: A little snow graces the tops of the Tetons. Familiar, pleasant to contemplate.
Robins were in force for a couple of weeks in the Hole. Surely on their way south; sometimes a few robins attempt to overwinter, but ordinarily not the majority. Pine siskins are numerous. Evening grosbeaks are present for the first time in some years (Polly Vaughn, others). Seems to be a big grouse and brown creeper year.
Elk, pronghorn, moose, deer and bison are on the move. Partly a result of seasonal change, hunter presence and fall urges. Please drive with caution, day and night.
Halloween comes. Then it gets scary.
© Bert Raynes 2012
Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways.