Academically I knew, I would eventually have to face a predator after my chickens, but I still don’t own a gun, a crossbow, or a trap of significant size.
Last night I saw a possum in the barn. He was much bolder than your average wild animal, but did move to some partial shelter from which to watch me do my chores. I moved around the barn nervously, not knowing how close I could pass by without him reacting violently since escape didn’t seem to be on his mind. He stayed in his corner while I did all my chores, sometimes having to pass within 4 feet of him, and I left the barn without incident.
When I got inside hubby and I started researching possums. Apparently the American animal is an Opossum, and the Australian one Possum. Ours was most likely a Virginia Opossum given his coloration, size, and location. They rarely transmit disease to humans, are resistant to rabies, eat snakes, mice and insects, and lyme disease carrying ticks generally die after biting an opossum. Small animals may be at risk, but we keep baby chickens in a cage to protect them from cats anyway, and a lamb would be bigger than the opossum. We’d have to keep an eye out to see if it could get into nests and steal eggs or if it would just discourage the hens from laying on the ground. So far so good.
But then I specifically started researching opossums on a site dedicated to farming. Sometimes opossums develop a taste for chicken. If they do, they tear the heads off and leave bodies behind, over and over again.
Was this opossum to be an ally or enemy? Which side should I err on? I decided to wait and see if we might be able to peacefully co-exist and got a good night’s sleep.
I was wrong.
In the morning I went to do regular barn chores, and there was a dead, headless chicken. The rooster repeatedly attacked me as I removed his dead lady friend. I protested to him that it was not my fault, but deep inside I thought, yes, it is my fault. I keep free range chickens, I don’t even coop them up at night, and I didn’t kill the predator I could see lurking in their barn.
We raise meat animals, death is a natural part of that cycle, but each death fulfills a purpose. That chicken died for nothing. The opossum wasn’t hungry enough to eat that much meat, they probably tussled over rights to roosting locations or eggs. The meat was ruined so that I didn’t want it for my own table. The ground is still frozen so I can’t even bury her and fertilize my garden. She died for no purpose.
Relocation is a tempting option, but relocated animals have a low survival rate, often starving to death or falling prey in an area where they don’t know the available shelters, if they survive they likely displace the local members of their species, or cause a nuisance to a different human than myself. As kind as it sounds, relocation is avoiding the issues of indirect damage I might cause.
Now with a heavy heart I realize the opossum must die. I hear they make good eating, maybe it can at least have a final purpose…