Bernal Heights Marsupial Makes Rare Daytime Appearance

Neighbor Ken on Rutledge writes:

Marsupial in the hood!

This guy’s been puttering around our north slope yard late at night. My Jack Russell has been on to him, but no confrontations as yet. I’ve only caught glimpses of his beady reflective eyes every now and then shining back at me in the darkness. I guess he must have heard about the brash, Bernal raccoons. This morning he was cruising our fence looking for the best way to take advantage of our wild bird feeders. Out in the bright daylight, he didn’t even flinch when I approached him to grab this shot. (Fact: Opossums have been known to play dead for 40 minutes to 4 hours before coming back to “life.”)

He seems healthy but then, what the heck do I know about Opossums?

Note: We’ve lived on the hill for over 22 years and this is a first for us. We’ve seen Opossums at night but never in the day.

PHOTO: Neighbor Ken

28 thoughts on “Bernal Heights Marsupial Makes Rare Daytime Appearance

  1. We are north slope (Manchester St.) and have seen this guy, or one of his relatives periodically over the past 15 years. Two years ago one of them had babies in our storage container. They are small and cute but hiss like their mean and nasty elders. Keep your pets clear of them if you can. Like the crazy coons, they can do real damage if backed into a corner.

  2. We are on the north side of the hill, too. This is one of the guys that has been stealing our eggs and making our dogs go ballistic late at night. One of them even took a crap in the hen house before escaping with our breakfast.

  3. Poor little guy. Possums are nocturnal, and if they’re out during the day, it is usually because they are particularly desperate for food or water and had to stay out foraging from the night before. Let him get some snacks from your bird feeder. 🙂

    By the way, if you see a raccoon out during the day, it is often because he has rabies — not so with possums. Their body temperatures are generally too low to make a good home for the rabies virus.

  4. What a photo! I have seen opossums only at night. Scary because they look like ghosts in the dark. They will stand their ground and can be quite fierce, so I would keep a dog or cat away.
    These are the survivors of our gentrification. I feel for them.

    I enjoy watching two squirrels play games with blue jays in my backyard. The jays are robbers, but these squirrels are stealing from them! It’s only in the last couple of years that I have seen squirrels. Sorry, no photos.

  5. A few years ago I had a racoon family lurking around our rental house in Bernal. I was afraid one would get in our garage and I didn’t want to be cornered with it there by accident. Having grown up on the east coast, I’m well-aware they carry rabies. But when I called Animal Care & Control about the possibility of them coming to collect the critter, they told me that racoons do not carry rabies this side of the rockies. This seemed completely preposterous to me. Does anyone know anything about rabies and racoons in northern CA?

  6. A few years ago our downstairs neighbor was screaming and panicking about a “giant dead rat” on her front doorstep. Turned out it was a possum doing what possums do. Told her to ignore it and it would disappear on its own.

  7. I live with Ken here in the Wild Kingdom and agree with GG – to be out during the day he/she must be very hungry or very thirsty. This guy seemed intrigued by the wild bird feeders, but far more interested in the water in the bird bath. I keep three water sources in the backyard and it really attracts all the wonderful wildlife.

  8. Rabies was virtually unknown in San Francisco, until a few years ago when it started turning up in bats. I have a tremendous respect for Animal Care and Control, but I don’t necessarily think the people who answer the phones there know everything there is to know about animal health and epidemiology. Use common sense, right? I’ve lived here for many years without having any unwanted interaction with the rodent wildlife. Well, raccoon and possums are a major garden pest (mice and rats too) and turned me off to even trying to grow vegetables in south Bernal Heights. Plus, once a raccoon declares your yard a favorite place to shit, it will shit there nightly.

  9. “These are the survivors of our gentrification.”

    Aren’t they really the beneficiaries? The rodents would be here without us, but their numbers would be reduced by predators. Predators would be the survivors.

  10. A couple of years ago we would often see a possum scurrying along our fences at night. Yes, creepy in the dark but we didn’t mind because I think they take care of rats/mice. I did actually see one during the day once. It was dead (playing dead probably) in the landscaping on Mission across from Appleton. A couple of leashed dogs were barking like crazy and trying to get to it. The owner was having a heck of a time getting by there.

  11. just spray household bleach in their faces. if that doesn’t work, try wasp nest spray in the face. also, that wasp nest spray can be turned into a primitive flame thrower. these vermin must be eradicated, no good poop machines, run at children, if one blinds my neighbor’s 3-yr old daughter, it will be total extermination time- actually it already is!! let fly the bleach!!!

  12. Possibly related:

    Sited this weekend and examined by our four year old with some interest: belly-up dead ‘possum, in planter at Cortland & Elsie.

    We have had numerous visits, including some early morning daylight sitings, in our backyard on Elsie. Also, one enterprising ‘possum did its damnedest to become a de facto downstairs neighbor, diligently burrowing (well, scratching) his/her way through our slope-side wall at ground height until our LL put a stout screen over the offended bit of wall…

    • Should add that this one WAS actually dead. Stinky… flies buzzing around… yuck. Is it Animal Care & Control that removes dead animals?

  13. We had a family of four near us too (also Manchester/Stoneman) and a baby somehow made it into the 1st floor several years ago. The cat went nuts, the possum played dead, I called AC&C who said just take a broom and sweep it outside while it is playing dead. That didn’t seem like a good strategy to me so I got a live trapper to come and set a live trap (this was before I owned two of my own to deal with the rainy season mice explosions). The thing got caught and was so cute in a homely way. The live trap guy said there were then several families living in the Northeast corner of the park and he got these calls routinely. He also said you can’t move them from their habitat and have to return them to their rightful place in Bernalwood. Seemed to make sense to me. Unlike for raccoons, I do have a soft place in my heart for these cutie homely marsupials.

  14. A few years ago, on the 4th of July, my Husband had barbecued on our deck outside. It had been an amazingly beautiful day, not a cloud, or gust of wind all day long. So I was kind of surprised that night when I heard the rattling of aluminum pans that my Husband had left outside on the deck, (some of the pans still had fat drippings from the meat he had cooked earlier that day.) Especially since everything in the front of the house outdoors was still, not a wind gust anywhere to be found. I took a peek out the backdoor window, and was frightened out of my gourd, by an alien looking big rat…I thought! My Husband took a look, and said, “its a Possum.” This thing had actually climbed up the stairs to our deck to check out what it could find to eat..I live on the South Side of Bernal Hill.

  15. “Nocturnal” is sort of a generalization for a lot of animals. Although Skunks, Raccoons, and Opossums tend to be nocturnal in urban environments, its not unheard of for individuals or families to be active during the day if the area is deemed safe and/or there is better access to food. Best example in SF are the Raccoons that live in the chain of lakes area of Golden Gate Park, who regularly do their thing during the day.

  16. Up until two years ago (when a cat moved in), the possums were regulars in my north slope yard and I had a number of up close encounters. One early evening, an adult was in the fig tree and it took some rather persistent poking with a broom to get it to move on. It hung there a bit, but then it seemed to realize that playing dead wasn’t a viable option in that particular predicament. It would have been welcome to the pears, but the figs are mine!

      • I agree that adult possums are not the most attractive of creatures. I might not think you were cute either, but I wouldn’t throw bleach on you, even if you were in my fig tree.

  17. People generally mistake opossums for rats but they generally are very gentle creatures except when cornered. Their diet consists primarily of vegetation, fruits, small insects, grubs, etc. They do not burrow or mess up your yards like raccoons, they don’t get rabies, don’t attack children, etc. Leave them alone and they leave you alone. Bleach, etc. as deterrents amount to animal cruelty. These little animals are nocturnal animals that rid your garden of rolly pollies, slugs, snails, don’t dig past the surface of the soil and love berries. Think of them as your friends. If any come inside your home they are looking for water. Leave a dish outside and you won’t have to worry about them in your home.

  18. Topics that generate the most comments on Bernalwood: parking wars, bikini joggers, and brazen varmints. Am I missing anything?

  19. and don’t forget bleach in the face of possums. remember the Beverly Hillbillys? they ate the vermin. braver than me. remember , Hillbillys. Did I mention bleach in the face?

  20. Possums are great connoisseurs of slugs and snails so if you are a gardener, you are lucky to have them coming through your yard at nite for a slug/snail snack!

  21. I never understand why possums get such a bad rap when the Raccoons are the real evil ones. Coons are cuter which is why I suspect they get away with more.

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