October 16, 2010

Saturday night excitement

Central American Woolly Opossum
Caluromys derbianus info: [English] [Spanish]

About 8:30 pm tonight, this animal was sitting on the railing on the upstairs terraza, barely 8 feet away from me. Chloe the guard dog was inside with me, off-duty because it was cold and rainy. She had been sound asleep on a pillow in the corner but we all (the dogs and I) heard a noise and she ran to the window to check it out.

Thinking it was a branch falling in the wind, I went back to the computer. Several minutes later, I turned around and saw that Chloe was
still standing at the window, staring outside into the dark, perfectly quiet and alert, her tail up, acting like a pointer dog.

"What is it?" I took the two steps to the window, knowing that she couldn't possibly be seeing anything outside down below.

"I don't see anything." I opened the screen to get a better look.

"Eeeeek! A giant rat!" I quickly closed the screen.

Carefully peering through the screen again, I saw that it was too fluffy to be a rat. "No, it's that damn squirrel that takes one bite out of the guavas and then throws them to the ground!"

"What's wrong with it? Why is it staying there looking at me? Why isn't it afraid? Why doesn't it run away?" Thoughts of deranged or rabid animals went through my head.

Then the blogger in me recovered. I knew what I had to do. I got the camera and slowly opened the window enough to point the camera through the opening. Click! Flash! Still the animal didn't move. Click! Flash! It looked at me, turning its head from side to side. Every time Chloe or I made a noise, it moved its head and wiggled its ears as if it was using radar to pick up the sounds.

In the flash of the camera, I could see that it was neither a rat nor a squirrel, but some sort of opossum. Bad news. As cute as this one looks, they kill chickens.

You can see in this photo that it is looking down below, probably trying to decide which one of the birds he wanted for dinner. We had a close call a few nights earlier when something went after the chickens in the middle of the night but Chloe apparently scared it off before it could do its dastardly deed.

After the peek through the open window, Chloe went nuts to try to get to the animal. She knows her job and it is to protect us and the chickens. She ripped right through the screen but I was able to hold her back long enough to close the window. I wasn't so concerned to protect the animal as I was that if the animal jumped, Chloe, in her frenzy, would leap right over the railing to the ground below.

What to do?! What to do?! It's El Jefe's job to handle wild animals, mice, and bugs! I took Chloe downstairs and let her outside to guard the chickens.

Thankfully, minutes later our hero arrived. Chloe ran to the gate, whining "Come quick! There is an emergency!" J knew instantly that something was wrong. I ran to the other side of the terraza, whining, "J! There is an ANIMAL up here on the terraza!" "What kind of animal?" "I don't knooooow! Come up here! Hurry!"

He took a look and I asked, "What kind of animal is it?" "It's one of those 'animals-that-eats-chickens'," as he always calls them. "I'm going to knock it off the railing so Chloe can kill it."

"Oh, noooo ...."

"We have to kill it or it will kill the chickens," he patiently explained.

"Oh, I know, but .... Oh, do what you have to do."

So he did. And she did. He congratulated her for her good work. She felt useful. I felt terrible.

Ugh. The law of the jungle is tough.

Related article: This was our second encounter with one of these. See
Ladrones y comadrejas (burglars and weasels)
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