Snow reveals the routes of hidden creatures.
Why do possum tracks in the driveway make me so happy? I know they live here. They certainly die here: I’ve got a lovely collection of possum bones from what vultures finish in our yard.
One roadkill was ennobled as a neighborhood landmark when Maggie was tiny. The possum had landed at the seam of a bridge over the interstate, and on walks we’d stop to look for teeth, admire the drifting vertebrae. It was years until white shards in the weeds completely vanished.
I bet you’ve seen more dead possums than live ones, too. Solitary, nocturnal, and even though they adapt to our sterile suburban lots, they aren’t great at negotiating traffic.
In snow, a possum’s front feet leave prints like doll hands, but the back feet are weird: as if evolution got carried away with the opposability of the opposable thumb and stretched it waaaaay out. The thumb angle does make it easy to ID. So does the hand-in-glove arrangement of each front and back print. While ambling, the back leg is sometimes brought just under where the front hit. Today’s possum held its tail out of the snow, but a tail slap makes marks, too.
Claws might also show, what with possums possessing quite the mani-pedi set for climbing trees.
Other creatures left clues in the driveway this morning:
•dog (Border Collie mix)
•cat (a neighbor’s neglected, bird-eating monster that should be inside, dammit)
•and our possum again
Tracks remind us we don’t live alone.
Next time snow coats your yard or driveway, see what crossed it when you weren’t looking?
Here’s a short piece I did for GeekDad last winter: Teaching Your Kids How to Track Animals at Home. It features possum, too.