There’s more than one way to trap a possum


Greg Bean

There’s an old saw that says you have to be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it.

I wish I’d remembered those words of wisdom a couple of weeks ago, when I asked readers for advice on how to get rid of the possum that’s been living in my garage for the last couple of months.

Man, did I get it.

I’m not going to name names here, but the flood started with a call from a lady who is fairly well known for her views on animal rights. To start off with, she was unhappy that I was taking part in what she called, “the war in New Jersey against backyard wildlife,” and wanted to make sure I dealt with the possum in a nontraumatic fashion.

“Don’t trap and relocate it,” she said.

“Why?” I asked.

“How would you feel if someone put you in a cage this morning, and tomorrow you woke up in Afghanistan?” she asked. “Could you survive? Could you speak the language?”

“Do you mean that the possum in my garage speaks a different language than the possums who live down the road in the state park?” I asked, dumbfounded.

“Precisely,” she said. Then she proceeded to give me several ideas on how to make the possum move on, and think the move was his idea, one of which included cat droppings. But I have to confess I was so absorbed in the surprising notion that possums are such gifted linguists that they have many languages made it hard to concentrate on the rest of what she had to say. And besides, I try to avoid cat droppings in all circumstances, even when handling them is in my best interests.

Then there was the lady who called and didn’t give her name but left a message saying, “Tell Greg Bean he doesn’t have a possum, he’s got a groundhog.”

I don’t know how she could be so certain, since my possum had been sighted several times by people who know the difference. Trouble is, even if she were right, I have no more idea how to get rid of a groundhog than I have getting rid of a possum, so her advice didn’t exactly move the ball down the field.

Another nice lady wrote about her dog, who is named Bruno and had gotten rid of several possums in her yard — terminated the possums, in fact. She wasn’t suggesting that I borrow Bruno, but she did have a request.

“When we started telling all our neighbors and friends how Bruno had become a great possum hunter, we got mixed reactions. It wasn’t until one day we realized that a lot of people were confusing Bruno, our dog, with Bruno, my brother. So if you hear any stories about a man named Bruno, who lives in Brooklyn and terminates possums with his teeth, please tell them that it was Bruno, the dog, not Bruno, the man.”

Another nice lady called the house at about 8:15 last Saturday morning. Although I was still in bed, she had a charming conversation with my wife and passed on several possum-proofing tips.

“Did you write about the possum?” my wife asked afterward.


“Idiot,” she said.

Yet another nice lady wrote to recount her experiences with a possum who had taken up residence in her garage. After trying a few unsuccessful methods of removing the critter, the family decided the best thing to do was buy a trap.

“We took a trip to our local Agway, and for a mere $60 bought a trap,” she wrote. “We baited it with canned cat food and within an hour, the cutie was caged. We set him free (and ran really, really fast) and advised our children to keep the garage door closed. For a nominal fee, I can rent you an almost new trap. Hope this helps.”

Lori Clinch, who also writes a column that appears in Greater Media News-papers, wrote with some of her own advice. And while I will admit it was practical advice — and inexpensive to boot — the procedure would have ended badly for the possum. To prevent PETA from picketing her home, I won’t pass along the exact details of her eradication method, but I do have some very stern advice for her husband:

Never, ever, go to sleep in the same room with this woman if she’s mad at you. And have someone you don’t like test any food she cooks before eating it yourself. Especially desserts.

Tell the truth, I was so overwhelmed with advice I couldn’t decide on a single course of action. Fortunately, the problem solved itself when I took a vacation day last Friday and found the possum in the latest newspaper nest he had constructed in the garage. With no trap at hand, I improvised. I dropped an empty recycling tub on top of him, slipped the lid underneath, flipped the whole shebang over and popped the locking lid in place.

Then I put the tub in the truck, drove the possum to his new neighborhood and let him go. I won’t say which municipal park became his new home, in case there’s some local ordinance against possum dumping. But last I saw him, he appeared in good spirits and seemed eager to learn whatever language possums in that vicinity speak. In fact, I’m pretty sure he was singing a jaunty tune as he ambled away. Of course, that part might have been my imagination.

File this one under The More You Know.

According to recent research out of Finland, a bad boss can actually kill you. According to a report from Reuters news service, researchers in Finland tracked the incidence of heart disease in over 6,400 male civil servants in London who had been polled on their perceived level of injustice in the workplace.

“In men who perceived a high level of justice, the risk of coronary heart disease was 30 percent lower than among those who perceived a low or an intermediate level of justice,” the researchers said.

An American who commented on the research suggested that a parallel study in the United States could find even more dramatic results because of the longer American work day.

What does all this mean?

I don’t know, for certain, but it might mean we ought to get them before they get us. In the most humane way possible, of course. Maybe a really big trap. In extreme cases, a pan of Lori Clinch brownies.

Gregory Bean is executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers.