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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Playin' Possum - Nature Thoughts.

I had the distinct pleasure of encountering one of nature's unique little creatures this morning on my way to school to drop my kids off there. We walk practically all the time, so this one like many mornings was rainy and wet. As we approached the intersection of 96th Avenue and 132nd Street, there was a flash of grey-white that caught the corner of my left eye and as my head turned to the left to see a pointed face (like a rat), big beady eyes, a body the size of a small raccoon and a bare-naked pink rat-like tail.

Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me, nor would I have even been able to take a picture even if I had, because as our eyes locked on each other, the poor little opossum's eyes nearly bugged right out of his head; he did a 180 and fled the other direction as fast as his little feet would take him.

I believe that his den was disturbed by a dog, most likely, as he did not appear aggressive nor inclined to stand his ground which would have indicated the potential for rabies. He fled like there were the Hounds of Hades after him. Either way, though it is not wise to approach a wild animal.

This was a Virginia Opossum (Didelphis viginiana), North America's only marsupial. Their populations are confined to the Southern Lower Mainland in the BC area. These were transplanted opossums that were introduced to Washington State in 1920 that have migrated over the border and established a population in the Lower Fraser Valley.

In fact this encounter makes me think of just how much animals have adapted to our urbanization of their habitat. You see robins, crows, squirrels, raccoons and rats daily with nary a thought, but the sad fact is that many of these animals do raid garbage bins to get a meal. Given an easy food source, an animal is less inclined to hunt or forage for itself. If society were to fall into a situation where we had to fend for ourselves like our ancestors many hundreds of years ago, the animal populations that we have fostered due to our careless disposal of garbage will suffer as well. With no easy food source, many of the populations of animals that tend to raid our garbage will more than likely starve before their survival instinct kicks in and they start to learn to forage again.

This was a raccoon that approached Heather and myself at Stanley Park in 2008, way too close for comfort but this is what feeding has done to these animals...they can't really be considered as wild anymore

Those of us who are nature photographers need to keep that in mind as we go about our daily lives, not just a thought here or there while we wander into the wild looking for those "money-shots". Ethically, should we as a species ourselves, leave easy food out for foraging animals to take advantage of, thus losing their natural instincts of survival? I know that may not be our intent. But in the best interests of our own survival as a species, we need to start looking out for nature, not just in bits and pieces here and there but thinking on conservation as a whole species.

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