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DEAR JOAN: Last week, my wife noticed a female opossum in the backyard stuffing leaves into her pouch. Does this mean she is building a nest for her little ones?

About the same time scrub-jays started dive bombing the backyard cats. Does this mean they have a nest in one of the nearby trees?

Our resident skunk has had her litter — three little ones were snacking on the front porch when I came home the other night.

The raccoons stop by about once a week. They must have a list of feeding stations in the neighborhood.

It’s almost like a mini zoo here.

Steve Schumann, Hayward

DEAR STEVE: The opossum question has several working parts, so let’s take this one step at a time.

Opossums can have up to three litters a year, so it’s very possible the one your wife saw could be pregnant or have already had her babies. But the collection of leaves doesn’t mean what you might think it does.

When the baby opossums are born, they are little more than embryos. They leave the birth canal less than two weeks after they were conceived and make a long and difficult journey up their mom’s body to the pouch, where they attach themselves to nipples.

They remain there for about 70 days until they are too large to fit in the pouch. The babies then climb onto their mom’s back, riding along and learning all the opossum secrets. At about 5½ months, they drop off and go their own way.

The mother does not line her pouch with leaves or anything else, but she does carry nesting materials with her tail. She scoops up the material with her front paws and works it down along her underside to her hind feet and tail, so it may look like she stuffing leaves in her pouch, but she isn’t.

The materials she was gathering were primarily for herself, to make a nice comfy den where she, and maybe her older babies, can live comfortably. It’s also very possible that she has a den in your yard or nearby.

Likewise, the scrub-jays might have a nest in your yard or close by, but they don’t need to be protecting their nest or offspring to have an excuse to dive bomb cats. They see the cats as predators and personally, I think they just enjoy doing it. But the short answer, again, is that the jays could be protecting …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News


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Why did the opossum stick leaves in her pouch?

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