FARMINGTON, Maine — The animal was small and a little “ratty” looking. It was definitely not the cat Jon Bubier thought he was trying to catch.
The furry bundle was about the size of a feline but what he trapped turned out to be an opossum, something he had only seen in North Carolina, Bubier said Monday.
Bubier set out a trap last weekend to capture what he thought was a feral, perhaps even rabid, cat that was hanging around a neighbor’s garage on High Street, he said.
The opossum was apparently scavenging for food in the garage.
Opossums generally live around people, basically foraging, Doug Rafferty, spokesman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said of the wild omnivore that looks similar to a rat.
“They are a relatively new mammal here in Maine,” he said. “ They’ve expanded to the north and set up residence.”
The population is enough to warrant a Maine trapping season, which ran from Nov. 3 to Dec. 31, he said.
Most are seen in the southern part of the state, Rafferty said. He has come across several in the Yarmouth area, he added.
But up in Farmington, the mountains will probably deter them. Opossums don’t hibernate and can suffer from frostbite.
Bubier contacted Maine Game Warden Kris McCabe after trapping the animal. McCabe told him the animals have worked their way north over the past 40 years.
They tend to be resilient and have adapted to cool weather, Bubier said he was told. They thrive in populated areas.
The opossum had a healthy pelt, very sharp claws and teeth, and growled, Bubier said.
When approached by a predator, an opossum can go into a catatonic state, playing dead. The animal secretes a dead smell from the back, one a predator leaves alone, according to the MDIFW website.
The opossum eats a variety of plants and animal matter, from dead animals to fruits and nuts. The animals are nocturnal and loners. They are born only partially developed.
According to the website, “they are so small [when born] that 20 can be held in a teaspoon. They crawl into the external pouch on the mother’s abdomen” where they continue to grow.
Although there is a trapping season in Maine, opossum fur didn’t bring a high rate during a York County Trapper Chapter sale this month. According to the Maine Trappers Association website, opossum fur sold for an average of 67 cents, compared to an average $62.88 for a fisher pelt and $52.83 for an otter pelt.
Bubier took the trapped animal to his woodlot in Farmington and found a pile of underbrush with a small hole where the animal could scoot under and seek protection.
“I left him some beef jerky and wished him well,” Bubier said.
Distributed by MCT Information Services