Daily Archives: February 21, 2010

One Woman’s Garbage…

Eating a banana peel

I toss banana peels in my flower beds because the peels are good for the soil. I rake mulch over them when the weather is better. Here an opossum quickly gobbles up a peel within minutes after I tossed it. The flowers won't get the potassium. I'm fine with that. It will be recycled through the opossum.

 

“Waste not, want not” is my motto. It’s almost a sickness, so I have to make an effort not to be one of those hoarders who pile up junk.  I try to find a good home for everything, rather than hang onto it, but you might not think so if you saw my closet. 

I even hate to throw away garbage.  We have a compost pile in a natural area of our yard.  Sometimes I toss banana peels into the shrub beds when it’s too cold to walk to the compost pile, which I admit is most of the time in the winter. The peels shrivel and then I eventually rake them into the mulch.  I tossed four banana peels and a few pear cores into a shrub bed Thursday afternoon.  Soon a Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) ambled across the lawn.  I ran for my camera and fumbled to change lenses.  I wanted to send photos of North America’s only marsupial to our friends in Australia, whose interest in our local wildlife when they visited us made me appreciate squirrels more than I had.  (Cockatoos are the Aussie equivalent of a ubiquitous neighborhood mildly pest-like animal.) 

Opossum eating banana peels in my yard.

 

There are about 334 species of marsupials.  More than 200 of these species are native to Australia and nearby islands to the north. There are also species in South America.  The Virginia Opossum, pictured here,  is the only marsupial native to North America. 

The best known marsupials are the kangaroos, koalas and wombats of Australia. 

 

I was sure the opossum would be gone by the time I could screw in my telephoto lens, but I found him in the shrub bed gulping the peels.   

We live near woods, so there are always wild animals visiting. I probably shouldn’t attract them, but I am living in their territory.  I never dreamed any animal would find a banana peel appealing… It’s been a colder than normal winter with more snow covering food sources, so any plant-based food I toss into the compost heap will be gobbled up. (Don’t put animal products into the compost heap.) 

Links about the opossum below. 

From National Geographic:  There are more than 60 different species of opossum, which are often called possums. The most notable is the Virginia opossum or common opossum—the only marsupial (pouched mammal) found in the United States and Canada. 

A female opossum gives birth to helpless young as tiny as honeybees. Babies immediately crawl into the mother’s pouch, where they continue to develop. As they get larger, they will go in and out of the pouch and sometimes ride on the mother’s back as she hunts for food. Opossums may give birth to as many as 20 babies in a litter, but fewer than half of them survive. Some never even make it as far as the pouch. 

Opossums are scavengers, and they often visit human homes or settlements to raid garbage cans, dumpsters, and other containers. They are attracted to carrion and can often be spotted near roadkill. Opossums also eat grass, nuts, and fruit. They will hunt mice, birds, insects, worms, snakes, and even chickens. 

Opossum eating banana peel.

These animals are most famous for “playing possum.” When threatened by dogs, foxes, or bobcats, opossums sometimes flop onto their sides and lie on the ground with their eyes closed or staring fixedly into space. They extend their tongues and generally appear to be dead. This ploy may put a predator off its guard and allow the opossum an opportunity to make its escape.

 

Opossums are excellent tree climbers and spend much of their time aloft. They are aided in this by sharp claws, which dig into bark, and by a long prehensile (gripping) tail that can be used as an extra limb. Opossums nest in tree holes or in dens made by other animals. 

Learn about the Virginia Opossum on Wikipedia. 

The National Opossum Society. 

Learn about the Virginia Opossum on National Geographic. 

Banana peels make a fine meal.

 

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