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ONE UPON A TIME…

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… not so very long ago and not in a galaxy far, far away, there lived  a couple of slightly- wacky-but-kind-hearted people. They rubbed along well enough with their fellows, but were most happy when surrounded by or working with animals.

They were  concerned for orphaned or injured animals, especially non-mainstream species.

Animals like owls

2008_1218oldiestamborine00011Five young Barn Owls

and snakes

2008_1218oldiestamborine0004a carpet snake

and possums2008_1218oldiestamborine00021“Spike” eating left-over salad that otherwise would have gone to the chooks.

With a particular interest in raptors, they learned  (from Wildlife Rangers, veterinarians and other rescue people) appropriate handling methods. They attended lectures, built suitable housing, bred suitable food species  and rehabilitated as many of their charges as was possible.

Sometimes, of course, rehabilitation is not possible. In such cases, some animals went into captive breeding programmes at a registered sanctuary. Many died. Many were euthanased.

But the biggest blast was always Release Time. You can keep your speed, your uppers, your booze. Give me the sight of an eagle, soaring aloft on a thermal to freedom and I’m riding my own joyous thermal. Every time.

Over the years, we lost a few hours of sleep, went through mega litres of petrol and became pretty good at mending literal and metaphorical fences.

As you see, these are old photographs (heck! I don’t think digital technology was even off the drawing board then!) so you may need a hand lens.

A cardinal rule in the rehab game is that wild animals should NEVER be considered as pets. Sadly, a rule often ignored by some people. But before you ask why that possum is happily scoffing salad while sitting on a sofa with The Man, let me explain that possums themselves are quick to ignore cardinal rules!

Omnivorous, gregarious and very quick to accept humans and the associated “goodies” derived from human co- habitation, many  possums have, quicker than any other  native, become tame.

Spike was one of the resident possums at a neighbours’ property. The neighbours found him one night, on the ground, with no sign of his mother. But they waited, watching from a darkened doorway, in case Momma appeared. When it was apparent that this was not going to happen they brought the little chap indoors, fed him diluted cow’s milk from an eye dropper, tucked him into a woollen beanie and called us.

Over the next few months, Spike gave us endless enjoyment and laughs a-plenty. The resident cats accepted him (although they growled if he stole from their bowls!) and he was too young (ie, not yet sexually mature) to bother the bigger possums that hissed and growled and scritched through the trees at night.

2008_1218oldiestamborine0008

Small Cat, Sammy and Spike

Gradually, he ventured further, stayed out longer each night and we knew he would soon leave us for his real home in the bush.

One night, just after dusk, when he’d been outside for maybe 15 minutes, there was a great scrabbling and hks-hks-hks-ing (that’s possum talk for “look out, buster!” at the back door. In came, we thought, Spike.  Followed by… Spike??  Oh **#!^&! Two possums in the house equates to WW  III!  The Man lunged at one (which, fortunately for The Man’s flesh, was Spike) and I grabbed the second fluffy tail as it was racing up the curtains.Now with a possum apiece, we had to make some pretty quick decisions. Right decisions!

“Hang on to Spike and I’ll get this one outside.” You really had to be there to appreciate the comedic  enormity, folks. Possums have formidable array of weaponry, not least the ability to pee copiously.

But I managed to get the intruder outside, and released on a tree trunk while The Man managed to hang on to his “catch.”

Spike was desperate to get back outside and finish the contest, but a carrot and a piece of apple held his attention long enough to settle him.

The next night he went outside  just after dusk, as usual… and never came back.*

to be continued…

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With the moon still big and bright enough to warrant braving the Night Squadron [of mosquitoes], I took the camera out twice last night. By the time I got to the gate the first time, clouds had sailed in front of  the moon. I waited for a few minutes, then, afraid of dropping the camera in my wild flailing, gave up.

So I curled up on a sofa and watched Hustle Ooh! If I wasn’t a” woman of mature age” I could see myself with that Mickey! Sadly, I’m more in Albert’s age bracket…

Where was I?…oh, yes! The moon…well, I was still waiting for Rusty to come in for the night so I thought another walk down the driveway was worthwhile. Wouldn’t you know — just as the moon, all gold-tinged and satiny, came from behind the cloud and I had a chance –three (count them! THREE!) neighbours switched on floodlights. I gave up.

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*We did see him again – he’d returned to our neighbours’ property and was happily being a wild possum in their garden. How do we know it was Spike? We were having a glass of wine with B & M one evening and one of the possums sat at the edge of the shrubbery, looking at us. So I whistled; the “official whistle” I always use for the cats and dogs. The possum raced across the paving and leapt up onto my shoulder. Spike!

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Author: dinahmow

A New Zealander, currently living in tropical Queensland,Australia (with 2 cats and one Main Man).Old enough to remember George VI, white tennis balls and life-before-television.You want more? Read the blog!

13 thoughts on “ONE UPON A TIME…

  1. Ok, that snake? I’d have been screaming like a girl and fleeing in the opposite direction. NOT poking it with a stick!

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  2. these are wonderful stories. the barn owls are amazing – it must have been quite the task trying to feed them? have you read “one man’s owl” by bernd heinrich?

    i know i’d be afraid of the snakes and quite possibly the possums as well, at least at first. our possums are different looking though, with pink hairless tails much like a rat tail. squirrels, i’ve heard are quite tamable as well. we have red, gray, black and flying varieties here – in fact one winter a flying squirrel was a nightly visitor at a bird feeder we’d hung just outside the window (these were pre taking-photos-of-everything days) eventually a bear stole the feeder for himself.

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  3. i agree with r.e. wolf – no snake poking for me either!

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  4. I can’t even look at pictures of snakes. Me, reknowned in my small circle as the Mother Theresa of the Animal World. Screaming “like a girl” doesn’t even begin to describe it. But we did have a pet raccoon and — courtesy of a tenant who was a tree surgeon — a pet squirrel.

    I am on my way to being completely in love with owls. I’ll have to get the Heinrich book — I was captivated by Mind of the Raven.

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  5. rew…I wasn’t poking the snake! It’s sliding along a cross-tie thingy! I don’t poke snakes! This one is a non-venomous species. Had it been a Taipan or adder or something similar, I’d have been at a very healthy distance.

    m… actually, not being a licensed handler, I didn’t take snakes into care, but often had people ‘phone demanding that I get rid of snakes for them. We bred rats to feed the raptors. And thanks for the book recommendation;I’ll look for it.

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  6. melanie…it’s curious (to me anyway) when some people almost faint at mere mention of snakes and spiders. I’ve never wanted to “keep” snakes, but am not afraid of them.Still, I understand some people’s dislike. And a pet Bandito? Lucky you!
    In Vancouver a few years ago, we were walking with friends near Deep Cove when we came across a fairly fresh bear scat. That was a moment of heightened endorphin activity!

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  7. I think I’m not afraid so much as repulsed by snakes. It’s not very higher-consciousness of me. I once met a woman with a rather friendly pet snake draped around her and used the opportunity to try to assuage some of the gut reaction. No screaminga nd bolting, but not much progress on rapprochement either. . .

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  8. melanie…you are excused. At least you know your limitations! (The snake in this photo was removed by our friends and released at the back of their property.As it had recently eaten, we figured it would not be back for at least a week, by which time the building work, as pictured, would be finished and it would not be hunting there.)

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  9. Dinah, I’m so behind in my commenting. I love your pictures of your hail storm. Funny to see hail and palm trees in the same shot!

    And this post! Holy Cow, I would never want to get close to a possum, and you explained why. We once had baby raccoons living under our deck but they left, thank God. A few summers ago I hand fed a baby rabbit Town House crackers until it grew large enough to be afraid of me. Then it stopped coming around. Maybe it found another girl he liked better, you think?

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  10. What a great peek into your history. You’re good people. And I never knew possums were that social. My cat is extremely neurotic and would have a nervous breakdown if a possum ate next to her.

    I have no fear of snakes, just the idea of feeding them makes me a bit quesy.

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  11. ellen…thankyou. We certainly had some “interesting” moments. (I probably started as a little kid when I used to have all sorts of bugs.)

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  12. This is really lovely and you are so lucky. Do you still do this? Can’t find the post about Nelson. Do you have a ‘Search this Blog’ widget?

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    • Angela…no, that was when we lived in the country;we don’t have the room here to be registered carers.
      At the bottom of the page there’s a search widget, but in this format it goes by month and I don’t remember when it was! I’ll email you.

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