The Great Opossum War of 2017

I recently became aware that my home is of vital interest and importance to the Opossum Community of West Redding.

For several weeks I have heard quiet but persistent scratching coming from underneath my home at sunrise and sunset, but no level of investigation revealed the source of the noise.  As any local resident is well aware, the temperatures have recently dropped from “everything is on fire” to “suitable for human life” and I have had all the windows open to enjoy the cool breeze.  One evening last week I heard a sound coming from the front of the house, and I looked out the window to see a white snout and sleek gray body appear from under the steps and vanish into the fading light.

I don’t know if it’s male or female because it wasn’t wearing gender-specific clothing, but it looked like a guy opossum.

Apparently, the space underneath my front porch is a seductive sanctuary, as my home is free from domestic pets and the cacophony of small humans stomping about.  While I cannot fault the opossum’s good taste in my lovely home, I do not want one as a roommate.  The scratching and banging sounds seem to have settled into the space behind my bathroom wall and I have horrifying images of it suddenly crashing through the plaster and tile, falling upon me while I’m showering.  I do not wish to spend my final moments on earth shrieking and twisting myself up in the shower curtain, covered in shampoo and wild opossum.  If the fall doesn’t kill me, surely the shock would.

A couple of days later I heard the monster head out for its shift at the Disgusting Rodent Emporium, and I hurried to block all entrances under my front porch, forcing it to find other living arrangements.  I admit I was rather smug about the whole thing, outsmarting a creature with a brain the size of a marble.

At 4 a.m. the next day the Gray Menace returned, crashing into the barrier and trying to claw its way back into my home.  I leapt to my feet with a howl, grabbed a flashlight and a mop (I don’t know) and rushed out to the front yard in my boxers.  The battle was brief but ferocious, with snarling and snapping on both our parts, and ended with a opossum retreat.  Unfortunately he returned 10 minutes later, armed with courage and needle teeth and a determination to breach the front lines.  Still wielding my mighty Mop of Fury (but wearing pants this time), I launched myself back into the fight but he stayed out of reach and ran off into the bushes.  And then — I swear I am not making this up — I swatted at the bushes with my mop and shouted, “Yeah, keep coming you gross f***er!”

I have lost my mind.

I might add that my neighbors don’t know I’m engaged in a Opossum War because there’s a shrub blocking their view of my porch; they just see my front door suddenly fly open and I emerge in a wild rage with a mop.  This is what the Horrible Thing has reduced me to.

He’s still breaking in every day.  I even poured a jar of my own pee around my porch, which the internet swore would keep away any animals.  It doesn’t.  Stinky McGee shows up every morning, claws at my porch, I rush out in a righteous fury, he growls and hisses and disappears and waits for me to leave for work and then lets himself back into my house.  It’s like he has his own key, but I know for a fact he’s not paying any rent.  I suspect he’s also getting into my liquor cabinet because I refuse to believe I’m consuming that much on my own.  He’d better be using a coaster.

And before you start, I don’t want to hear a single word about how opossums are “shy and harmless creatures who eat bugs and pests and heal the forest and grant wishes.”  Spare me.  This opossum is a jerk, and I won’t abide any kind words about it.

I know this war will end in tears, me standing on my front lawn in a bathrobe, wearing one shoe and dragging a broken mop handle, the opossum in the bushes shaking his head saying “Jeez, dude.

In my defeat, I will finally do the smart thing and use a humane “live trap”, drive the monster out to the country and release him into the wild, where he can live out his days in search of an equally gross lady opossum and sire a mess of ugly babies and dream about the day he beat The Human in The Underwear.

But until that day comes … this is war.

Epilogue

Phase One of the Great Opossum War of 2017 is over.

After a 48 hour peace, in which the opossum had not been sighted (I was foolishly certain I had driven my foe from my land) the monster returned this morning.  However, he was no longer afraid of my mighty Mop of Fury and no manner of swinging or thrashing or threatening gestures would make him back down.  I turned to my final line of defense…a big pan of cold water.  He didn’t like that AT ALL, and after two dousings he fled into the bushes.  But he still busted into my house later.

As many veterans of Animal Battles will understand, I was growing weary of the War and when I came home from work I finally set out a “live trap” to catch this wily creature.  I laid out a feast leading to the trap, starting with an amuse-bouche of crackers and peanut butter, followed by a main course of smoked turkey and a side dish of more crackers.  I awaited dusk.

I did not have to wait long before the creature emerged from under my porch.  Much to my surprise, it was a MUCH LARGER black opossum, followed by the smaller gray one I had been fighting all week.  The Giant Gross Dark Queen Opossum of Grossness lumbered her way over to the trap, sniffed delicately at my offering and then ate the leaves on the ground around the trap.  I’m not even kidding.  She then sauntered off into the dark, probably looking for a gentlemen opossum to seduce.  The now cute-by-comparison little one headed straight for the trap and was captured within seconds.  I admit, it was adorable seeing it lick the peanut butter off its tiny fingers.

The Prince (Princess?) opossum has been released in the country outside town on my brother’s property where it promptly scaled a tree not a hundred yards from his house.  I love my brother but the opossum is his problem now.

However, I cannot rest.  I still have to wage the Great Opossum War of 2017 Phase II against the Giant Gross Dark Queen of Opossum Grossness.  The first person to point out she probably has other babies under my house gets a pox cast upon them.

Matt Grigsby
Matt Grigsby was born and raised in Redding but has often felt he should have been born in Italy. By day he's a computer analyst toiling for the public good and by night he searches airline websites for great travel deals. His interests include books, movies, prowling thrift shops for treasure and tricking his friends into cooking for him. One day he hopes to complete his quest in finding the best gelato shop in Italy.
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84 Responses

  1. Deb says:

    This is pure gold. If I didn’t love you so much I would have all sorts of wildlife trucked in to try to breach your perimeter, just for the story-telling. But (a) aforementioned lurve for you, (b) I live in Scotland and shipping is expensive, and (c) I have yet to even spot a wild haggis in the forest, much less capture one and stick it in a FedEx box to send across the sea.

    Thank you for the giggles! That photo of you, victorious, with the vanquished foe… You should print that out and post it in your yard to warn off the Giant Gross Dark Queen Possum of Grossness (and any other consorts/offspring). Also, then the neighbors can see what you’ve been mop-jousting with, at last.

    • Matt Grigsby says:

      I think that’s a marvelous idea, printing the photo of my victory. It can serve as a warning to all other Possums of the Grossness, AND inform my neighbors that I’m not totally crazy!

      Well…except that last part is kind of true. But at least they’d know I was battling real enemies!

  2. cheyenne says:

    I saw lots of possums when I worked at the schools at night and shooed them away. But another creature I saw more often, and avoided, was skunks. Look on the good side, possums are better than a skunk home crasher.

    • Matt Grigsby says:

      I 100% agree that skunks would be infinitely worse. I wouldn’t even attempt to catch them, I’d just move. Quietly.

  3. Brian Grigsby says:

    If hadn’t seen the beast firsthand, I might think you made this up…but no. It is real. I now have an uneasy feeling that this might have been the plan for the ‘possum kingdom all along: to release its minions throughout the land. But alas, I know my land better the ‘possum.

  4. Shannon Grigsby Spencer says:

    This made me laugh so hard, knowing you and knowing how crazy this must have driven you and to know it’s not quite over secretly delights me.

  5. Cathy A. says:

    This is genius, and the fist pumping picture is my new favorite.

  6. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    Oh sheesh. I thought I was prepared for this, but no. I think I injured myself laughing.

  7. Beverly Stafford says:

    A pox on me, for sure, because a possum trying to get back to his family under your house was what I thought when the small possum was attempting to breach your barriers. Both the mop and water bring visions of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

    • Matt Grigsby says:

      For all my tough talk, I’m really a big mush and you needn’t worry that I’ve split up some noble Possum dynasty. I will catch and release the entire royal family, one at a time.

  8. Jamie says:

    Goos luck on Phase II. Mama is going to be royally pissed that you napped her baby. I think you’re going to need a bigger trap.

    • Matt Grigsby says:

      I do indeed worry I’ll need a larger trap. I’ll know more in the next few days as the Dark Queen and I begin to battle.

  9. Where’s the “thumbs up” button? Wonderful. Looking forward to further reports from the front. Courage!

  10. Erika says:

    I am shaking with suppressed laughter because my boss is sitting two feet in front of me and I have no wish to be thought a loon. But I’m cackling inside.

  11. Glenda says:

    Oh my… if that is the small cute one in the trap I truly shudder at the thought of the Giant Gross Dark Queen of Opossum Grossness and this from someone in Australia where all sorts of dangerous creatures reside. Opossums look evil and nasty.

    • Matt Grigsby says:

      The opossums in Australia are cute and cuddly. Ours are like nightmares with long, hairless, gross tails. I do not look forward to my battle with the Dark Queen.

      • Louise Hanson says:

        Our ‘possums are nothing but overgrown rats! We had a dog, a border collie/chow mix, who did in 7 of them when they lived under our shed. I wanted to get a collar for her and put small ‘possum tags on it to recognize her kills. They soon moved on and now we only find an occasional one walking the fence around the yard, as we have another dog who has had two kills so far.

        • Matthew Grigsby says:

          It sounds like word got out in the Opossum Community that your property is a danger zone. I love the idea of finding “trophy” tags for your dogs!

  12. Cathy says:

    What a great story for starting off the day! Good luck in your future adventures with the opossum family.

  13. Linda C. says:

    OMG, still laughing!! One of the (few) things I missed after retirement was your hilarious emails, cyber warnings, etc….So glad I am able to resume giggling at your writings about your amazing life of adventure and bravery!

  14. Mistress of the Mix says:

    Pure genius, my friend.

  15. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    I don’t think you trapped the child of the Giant Gross Dark Queen Opossum of Grossness. I think their relationship is more like the Dowager Countess and Molesley.

    She will not only be a far more wily opponent, she will likely spray you with cutting insults the like you’ve never heard before.

  16. Dan Boek says:

    Great job of telling your story It was very easy to relate to on several levels.

  17. Joanne Gifford says:

    Loved, loved, loved this !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Dawn Grigsy says:

    Great tale of fighting the good fight. I needed a good laugh this morning. Thanks Matt for letting us know what you do in the early morning hours.

  19. Oh, Matt, you are such a superb writer and storyteller, and I can speak for myself and say I needed this today more than ever. Thank you for making me laugh.
    I love you!

    xodoni

    p.s. Now that we’re neighbors, do NOT send your cast-off critters my way!

    • Matthew Grigsby says:

      The whole thing was so preposterous, I knew it was eventually going to be funny. I love you too! And no worries, I am providing a neighborhood service by removing the Opossum Royal Family to another far away realm!

  20. Judy Smith says:

    Your skills are wasted on computer analysis!!! Please sir, may I have some MORE???!!! Thanks for the belly laughs. (My Tennessee grandparents, NO LIE, used to eat possum belly.)

    • Matthew Grigsby says:

      POSSUM BELLY? I can hardly imagine eating one of these monsters, let alone a very specific and very gross part of it! YIKES!

  21. Lori says:

    I can’t remember when I laughed so hard. Thank you!

  22. J M Boren says:

    Matt, you are apparently my neighbor as well. Last night a very young possum was on my back step, next to the screen door, which startled my very large [inside] cat, who blasted the door off its tracks to apprehend the intruder, which promptly imitated a possum corpse, while we took pictures and got the cat a Xanax. In other words…I guess everyone likes it around here! (It came back to life and beat feet while we were deciding what to do about the “dead” possum.)

    • Matthew Grigsby says:

      I wonder if your possum was a member of the Possum Royal Family of Grossness? For all I know, your visitor came from my house!

  23. Jeff says:

    Boil up half a peck ‘o water or more, dependin’ on the size o’ your possum. Dunk the critter in boilin’ water an’ right away pull off his hair n’ scrape ‘em clean. Don’t forgit to cut off his feet, his head n’ his tail! Clean out his innards. Put the possum in a hefty jug o’ cold salty water and let ‘em soak overnight. Change his water the next day and start boilin’ him ‘til his skin lets a fork pop through it easy like. They ain’t no time for cooking possum ‘cause some is tougher than others. When the feller is jest right, dry him off and put ‘em in a bakin’ pan with a bit o’ pot likker (juice left over after cooking greens or other vegetables) ‘n some seasoned salt over his belly. When he is brown ‘n toasty, he is ready for slicin’ and servin’. Back home we fattens possum with ‘simmons (persimmons), and most often we eats him with yams.

  24. Barbara Stone says:

    Laughing so hard…

  25. Sharon says:

    Thanks for the laugh this morning I throughly enjoyed your opossum adventure & will be anxiously awaiting the next chapter.

    • Matt Grigsby says:

      Here’s hoping the next chapter is short and without excess levels of drama.

      I’m worried if the Dark Queen makes a stand I’ll be trapped in my house!

  26. 2r says:

    I’ve had to trap and relocate a few. I don’t believe in harming them.They were here before us,and can be nasty out of fear. They maybe dont belong under our house. And yes all animals are a part..(have a value) to our planet ecosystems.. We’d have Way less fleas and bugs (dont they belong too?) With a possum around. But like me..sometimes they have to leave..and find another home before damages occur… I wondered if the persistance meant baby’s on board.. Good job.and I hope we keep a level of humanity and humor, about the POSSibilities..

    • Matthew Grigsby says:

      I talk a big talk, but I don’t believe in harming them either. However, I have decided it’s okay if I hate them, no matter how beneficial. A world with possums in it is a good thing, but Matt’s House with possums in it is not.
      My hunt will continue for the Dark Queen, and she will be relocated as well.

      • K. Beck says:

        Up front, I am on the side of the ‘possums! I have spent hours of my time in their defense, attempting to convince people like you Matt, that they are basically defenseless animals that try to avoid confrontations with everything. That is what that “play dead” business is all about. Also, when they do that they emit some sort of horrible odor, just to prove to the predator they are dead and rotting, on the spot! However, if they are defending their young you have a different animal, which is what I suspect you have/had…babies under your house*. There is an “animal trapper” in Redding. I didn’t keep his name. Recommend to me by an Exterminator Co. here in Redding (they don’t “do” animals!) . He walked me through a “there’s an animal under my house” problem. It had ripped the screen right off the house to get under there! Animal Trapper was going to charge me $75.00 (I think) just to drive to my house and “take a look.” Well, that was out of the question. Following his directions I deduced it was a small raccoon. I am too lazy and too cheap to buy a trap, so I improvised. First I bought a new vent screen and some long screws (Animal Trapper said to NOT use nails, ’cause small animals can rip the vent cover right off; I had proof positive of THAT already!). I left the screen off for two nights. During the day I put on my hiking boots and systematically stomped all over the house starting at the part of the house farthest from the ripped off screen. I figured if they can’t get any sleep while they are under the house they would relocate to a quiet place…don’t know if human reasoning works with raccoons, but I thought I would give it a try. After two days of that I went outside and reattached the screen. By that time cat paw prints started showing up outside the open vent and I didn’t want THEM under my house either. As an added deterrent I put some moth balls on the ledge just next to the screen (in case other critters came sniffing around) before I reattached the screen with SCREWS. The 100+ degree weather has proven to me nothing died under my house. Or, it was so hot this summer the dead bodies desiccated instead of rotted! At least I have convinced myself I didn’t trap anything under there.

        As an aside Animal Trapper told me raccoons who were born and raised under someone’s house will want to return to a crawl space to make their home.

        If you decide to bravely crawl under your house, and find live babies, call Shasta Wildlife Rescue in Anderson ((530) 365-9453). They may take them. AND if you have not taken one of their tours in the spring, go there (3752 Rupert Rd., Anderson) and check them out…HIGHLY recommended.

        • Matthew Grigsby says:

          While I appreciate your passion and respect for these creatures, I have decided it’s okay if I hate them. They may have many wonderful qualities but I don’t care because I simply don’t want them around. I do not wish any harm to come to them (hence, the catch and release), but I don’t want them tearing up my house either. Harmless, defenseless, sensitive…what have you…I still think they’re gross.
          There aren’t any babies because the one I caught is a juvenile, which means the Dark Queen already had her litter and I’m not breaking up a family. I certainly don’t want dead animals rotting under my house either.
          I’m trying to do right by the possum without ruining my own life too.

          • Deb says:

            Matt, when I was tormenting you on Facebook with all my possum nonsense, I saw many, many pictures of the damage possums can do in/under houses. Piles of excrement everywhere in the insulation, you name it. You don’t have to defend your fight against these critters. No one wants their home to become an animal latrine. Hooray for all the good that possums do, but they can do their good deeds NOT IN YOUR HOUSE.

          • Matt Grigsby says:

            Thanks for the backup Deb. I cringe at the thought of what I’ll eventually find under my house!

  27. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    Opossums are the only marsupials left in the United States. They were the dominant mammals back in the mesozoic, but placental mammals have been kicking marsupial ass ever since. Except for Australia, which had been isolated for so long (>250 million years) that placentals never arrived until recently, and the marsupials had no competition for about a quarter of a billion years.

    I’ve had close encounters with mama opossums before. They can be damned protective—hissing, baring teeth, etc. On the upside, because they have primitive metabolisms and relatively low body temperatures, they almost never get rabies. The theory is that the virus just doesn’t thrive in opossums. It can’t be that the virus is just put off by the opossum’s looks as much as Matt is and doesn’t want anything to do with them. If you’ve ever had a close-up look at a bat’s face, you’ll know that rabies ain’t that particular about cuteness quotients. Rabies loves it some bats.

    I’m reminded of the scene in “Jaws” where Roy Scheider gets his first look at the shark and says, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” For that mama opossum, you’re gonna need a bigger trap.

    • Matthew Grigsby says:

      The Dark Queen will require a larger prison, for sure. I’m still going to set the trap tonight and see if I catch any more of the royal family, but if she somehow does fit in the trap I will do a celebratory gig and send her to the western wilderness.

  28. Barbara N. says:

    This is sick but true…happened during one of my never ending under the house rat killing endeavors. This was early on before I learned that your crawlspace needs to be buttoned up tight. Traps are set for the rats…I check them, they are dead but headless. Nice, I think, they are cannibalizing down there. At that time there were quite a few rats to kill, so this went on for a few days. One night I was outside as I heard a noise and with a flashlight saw an opossum looking at me from under the house through one of the vents. It had been trapped under there for days as I had locked it all down from the rats. I am assuming it might have been eating the rats to stay alive. I left the door to the crawlspace open and it escaped into the night…never to be seen under the house again. They are creepy and make creepy noises. I agree…go live your opossum life somewhere else. Luckily it never tried to break back in. We live next to a green space so I occasionally hear them shuffling around at night. I am always alert to the rat break in though…does it ever end!! Great story…that was one determined opossum!

    • Matthew Grigsby says:

      The idea of a trapped possim eating your trapped rats is practically a horror story waiting to be written! I’m glad you found out in time for it to make an escape!

  29. Kathy says:

    So funny that I just may have wet my pants…which only made me visualize you “spreading” your pee around. Maybe you should just borrow someone’s big dog for awhile. Can’t wait to hear more of your continuing saga.

  30. Common Sense says:

    The Opossum Score at my house this past year….. German Shepherd 3 ……. Opossum…. 1/4……he got a small bite in before he met the maker…..I am not one to hurt any animal…but at 2am in the morning when the Yelp followed by the crunch happens…not much one can do…..

    To your Victories!

  31. Lisa says:

    Excerpt from the UC ag & natural resources website. In addition to diseases, they eat ground nesting bird eggs, including our state bird, the California Quail and personally, I would like to horsewhip the person that brought them to California. I say send them back east where they belong.
    “The opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is the only native North American marsupial. Marsupials are distinguished by their abdominal pouch used for carrying their young. The opossum is not native to California but was introduced in San Jose in 1910 from the east coast of the United States and has now become well established throughout much of the state.
    Opossums carry diseases such as leptospirosis, tuberculosis, relapsing fever, tularemia, spotted fever, toxoplasmosis, coccidiosis, trichomoniasis, and Chagas disease. They may also be infested with fleas, ticks, mites, and lice. Opossums are hosts for cat and dog fleas, especially in urban environments. This flea infestation on opossums is particularly concerning for transmission of flea-borne typhus, which is increasing in prevalence in Orange and Los Angeles Counties.

    • Matthew Grigsby says:

      It’s good to hear my hatred for them is well deserved! Thank you for this!

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Because they’re relatively lousy thermoregulators and sensitive to cold, evidence of their range expansion northward and westward (from the eastern US part of their range) has been seen as evidence of climate change, going back to when I was in college. At the extremes of that range expansion their ears and tails often show evidence of frostbite. The introduced west coast population has now expanded into Canada, chasing the leading edge of warming winters.

      • Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

        Steve, if you believe the memes (as well as the mimes) that floated around a while back, one beneficial thing about opossums is that they eat lots of ticks, perhaps inhibiting the spread of Lyme disease. Have you looked at any studies supporting what those memes and mimes suggest?

      • Matthew Grigsby says:

        I’m certain the Royal Possum Family is planning on wintering in my home.

        • K. Beck says:

          Barbara N. September 22, 2017 at 5:36 pm
          “I learned that your crawlspace needs to be buttoned up tight.”

          Solution to your problem.

          • Matthew Grigsby says:

            That’s what my jar of pee was supposed to do, keep them away from the crawl space.

            I’m kidding, of course. Mostly.

  32. kimberly booth says:

    Matt you are hysterical, I loved the article. If I lived closer to you I would try to convince you that your night time visitor was one of the seven opossum babies that my son rescued a few years ago. He found them still nursing on their dead mother who had been struck by a car. Poor thing put her head out there at the wrong time, but some how the babies were just fine. He brought them home in a brown paper sack, I thought they were mice. They were about 3 inches long and their eyes were barely open. We raised and released them all but one who still sleeps in a ferret hammock on the back porch (she decided she likes being spoiled and grapes and watermelon ). It was an awesome experience that we would happily all over again! We love opossums! Sorry yours was grumpy and thank you for taking care of the issue the correct way.

    • Matthew Grigsby says:

      Opossums that have been raised properly sound rather nice. It’s the wild ones and their wild ways that I can’t stomach. Perhaps mine are the ones your son saved, and in that case I’m glad to be saving them for a new home FAR from mine.

  33. Jacqueline Breedlove says:

    Marvelous story Matt. I been laughing all morning!

  34. Karen C says:

    Those critters will not give up. we have trapped a few and taken them out into the hinders, out of our neighborhood. One wiley specimen decided to stay, and we found the mom and her babies in our laundry room service sink. I have no idea how she got in there, it has straight sides and was slick. But there she was, with two babies. My hubs had to glove up, put her into a box with the babies and take her away to a nice place in a tree area, not far from here. the area has since built up and we have not seen them. Skunks abound and we can smell them in early morning, passing through before dawn.

    • Matthew Grigsby says:

      Skunks are my #1 fear. I also fear that if I drive off the opossums the skunks will become the new tenants. I’m glad you were able to relocate your residents safely!

  35. Ginny says:

    Throw under the house moth balls. Skunks, opossums, and others hate those lovely little stinky balls! I’d rather have the balls than the animal population under my house…. Really does work…… I know because I’ve done it at my home and my husband’s sisters………..;o))))

    • Matthew Grigsby says:

      I do need to get some, but it’s one of those things you never really have on a shopping list, you know? I’ll put it on the list now (and by “now”, I mean “if I remember”, which I won’t, and then I’ll have to make a special trip and buy just those).

  36. Peggy says:

    I think this gem of storytelling has garnered the most comments I have ever seen on A News Cafe!
    I have said for some time you are the funniest person on facebook..now the News cafe….I see a second career here. And I do think you need a bigger trap for Mama…

    • Matthew Grigsby says:

      Thank you for your kind words Peggy! I have written a number of articles for A News Café, and I imagine there will be more in my future.

      I have some plans to get a larger trap for the Dark Queen of the Opossums!

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