Thursday, May 08, 2008

Opossum Attack in San Dimas

Before slipping into bed tonight I opened the morning Los Angeles Times, and ran across an article that caught my attention titled California urges caution around coyotes after Inland Empire attacks, by David Kelly. Our home is located approximately one mile south of the foothills in the northern portion of San Dimas, and we have many coyotes running the streets seeking food in the wee hours of the night.

We are not certain, but we highly suspect coyotes are responsible for all the missing cats and small dogs in the area, but this is not what the article brought to mind.

About five weeks ago tomorrow my daughter Joanna and her friend Nick Monges were walking to our community pool, and as they turned the corner a opossum was standing in the middle of the sidewalk, startling both of the teenagers. I suppose a natural defense overcame Nick as he kicked at the opossum, which caused the opossum to sink it’s teeth through the tongue of Nick’s tennis shoe, and into his flesh.

Not sure what to do, Nick called his sister for a ride back home to Baldwin Park, and after removing his tennis shoe discovered a massive swelling at the point of entry on the top of his foot. Upon hearing what had occurred, Nick’s grandmother rushed Nick to the emergency room of Kaiser Hospital, also located in Baldwin Park.

We all know emergency room visits can take three to five hours of waiting to see a doctor, in this case, Nick was rushed into an examining room. The attending nurse began cleaning his wound as soon as he was admitted, with the entire staff taking turns to gawk at this very unusual bite. One of the nurses exclaimed, “In twenty-two years in the nursing field, I have never heard of anyone being bitten by a opossum”.

Nick’s wait for the attending physician was short, and the doctor also said this was his first case of a opossum attack, and wondered if the opossum was protecting it’s babies or was rabid?

Not having any rabies serum on hand, the hospital sent out a call, which brought the serum to the hospital within ninety minutes. Nick was given one shot in his shoulder, one to the leg, and one at the wound. The series of shots consist of six visits to the hospital, and are not like years ago when the shots were injected into the stomach, a very painful experience.

Since the opossum attack, the Health Department has set out traps in and around the home where the attack happened, in an attempt to capture the opossum to test for rabies.

We must all remember that wild animals are wild, and will react to what they perceive as an invasion of their territory with force.


Will Campbell... said...

Hi Ed! Great post!

Opossums -- especially females with infants -- can be quite frightening in their defense display, opening wide their jaws the better to show all those teeth and hissing on top of that.

I'll try not to fault poor Nick since he paid a steep price for his decision to attack, but the more prudent "natural defense" would be one grounded much more in respect in giving the creature enough room to go about its business.

One other point I'd like to add is that the coyotes you mention earlier might very well be what's making cats and dogs in your neighborhood disappear, but it's important to consider that the ultimate responsibility resides not with the wild animals who are just doing what wild animals do, but with those pet owners whose decisions leave their animals vulnerable to such predation.

Kanani said...

I think the title should be: Kid attacks possum, possum fights back..

When you see an opossum, just walk away. Chances are the opossum will play dead.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Someone needs to teach that kid that sometimes even things smaller and weaker than he will fight back when attacked. Been around opossums all my life on and off - scary looking? Sure. But the LEAST aggressive mammal I have ever had accidental or intentional contact with. Adolescent male humans on the other hand... let's hope he felt more shame than pride as as the bones snapped. But I somehow doubt it...