Sunday, August 17, 2008

Critters: Possum

When we first noticed the smell several days ago, I thought to myself, "It's probably a dead bird or possibly a dead squirrel." But as the smell got stronger and lasted longer, I realized something bigger was decomposing. Gathering up my courage and holding my breath, I poked around in the bushes between the driveway and the pond, and found a very large, very dead possum.

What to do?

The carcass was too big, too rotten and too tangled in the bushes to scoop up neatly with a shovel. So we tried an old remedy, used for centuries to hasten the decomposition of flesh: we covered it with ashes from the wood-burning stove. The smell diminished almost instantly and the effect seems to be holding now, a day later. According to a chemist friend, the protein --- that is everything but the hair and bones --- will soon be reduced to its elements and go back into the soil. The ashes also kill the bacteria that produce the smell.

It looks like this critter was injured near-by --- perhaps hit by a car --- because there is a trail of blood on the driveway. It may have been seeking water and came as far as the pond, where it hid in the bushes and expired.

The possum, along with the coon and the skunk, are North American animals. To European visitors, they are a curiosity. We were once asked by Norwegian friends who were here for the year, to look at the strange creature in the compartment next to the fireplace in the house they were renting. The box had both an exterior and an interior door through which to pass fire wood. A mother possum had found this protected spot ideal for birthing her babies. When people unaccustomed to these creatures ask about them, I need to remember to use the full names --- opossum, raccoon --- in case anyone wants to look up more about them.

Later - I just realized my previous post was about ashes, too.


Post a Comment

<< Home