I let my dogs out for a potty break sometime after 7 PM. Three dogs went out, two dogs came back to the door a few minutes later. Who's missing? Goober. And he's out in the yard doing his "Moxie has the toy I want" bark. What this means is that he's "treed" some wild critter or maybe a stray cat.
So I grab a flashlight and my coat--there's a freeze forecast tonight--and head out into the jungle of our half-acre urban backyard in the historic district of downtown Anniston. Sure enough, Goober has found a trespasser--a beautiful gray opossum that is playing possum and gone into a death-like seizure with his mouth gaping open in a grimace, tongue hanging out, body stiff and smelling like something that's been dead for several days.
I haul the dog off the critter and herd him back into the house. Then I go back and scruff the possum while supporting his back end with the other hand and carry him out of the backyard. If I don't, he may still be in the yard the next time the dogs go out and we'll go through all this again. And next time Goober's attentions could be lethal to our interloper.
I gently lay the possum on its side near some bushes and then step back. It jumps up and runs off into the night, but it IS alive and apparently unharmed and that makes me deliriously happy. I've done my wild-critter-good-deed for the week.
Interestingly, an opossum's greatest enemies are dogs and cars. Most wild possums are lucky if they have a lifespan of a year. Captive possums can live 3-4 years and some have lived even longer.
[Disclaimer: Kids--don't try this at home. I'm assuming all risks by picking up a wild critter in my yard. Even though the chances of getting rabies from any opossum are slim to none (you are more likely to get rabies from your mail carrier than an opossum), getting bitten by any animal can lead to infection or nerve/tissue damage.]