Help! A possum’s fallen in and he can’t get out

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I have a compost bin and I have had the top off so I could get the stuff inside damp when it rained. I looked in there this weekend and there was an opossum inside. It won’t leave. I believe it is going to live there. Is it going to hurt the compost material and should I leave it there?

If this is a compost unit with not much material in it, this may be a case of the opossum can’t leave, not that it won’t leave. Many compost units have straight sides or sides that are sloping inwards at the top. They are easy to get into but tough to get out of.

Possums are not noted for their jumping ability and springing straight upwards is not possible. You may have put things into the compost container that could attract critters. If you are dumping in meat, bones, fat, dairy products or egg shells, wildlife like possums, skunks, raccoons and other meat eaters could stop by to sample the cuisine. They would be dining, not living in.

Possums are nocturnal, which means they are out cruising for food in the evening. If Opie is there after it gets dark, one of two things are going on. It is either trapped or you keep dropping in the finest food imaginable. I am currently voting for “trapped.”

Find a wide, flat board. Slide it carefully into the top of the bin and place it on as much of an angle as possible. Then scurry away and hope that your guest will use this as its personal ramp to freedom.

The other choice would be to remove an access door or some part of the unit, if it comes apart. It’s time to free dopey. You visitor is not going to harm the compost. Many compost mixtures include manure of one kind or another. This is just a little more unusual.

I have some black walnut trees in my yard. I put my vegetable garden near one of the trees. I had the tomatoes and peppers wilt and die but the beans and corn were fine. I was recently told that this tree kills plants. But why did some die and some live? They all had good care.

Your teller should avoid those “all or nothing” statements. You don’t see black walnuts growing on bare soil. So there are plants that tolerate the juglone that is in the tree. This chemical is contained in all the parts of the walnut tree, with some extra in the roots.

When walnut roots and other plants roots come in contact with each other, the juglone is transferred. If you cut down the walnut, the decaying roots will still contain it for a period of time. For the juglone to be transferred, there must be root contact. The juglone inhibits the plant’s respiration. The plant’s metabolism slows and stops. This results in wilting, yellowing and death.

Sometimes, it’s just dumb luck that roots did not make contact. Other times, the plant is resistant to it. In the vegetable world, the most sensitive plant is the tomato, followed by the others that belong to the nightshade family: pepper, eggplant and potato. Others are cabbage and asparagus. In the resistant category, you have already found out that beans and corn are not affected.

Other vegetables that are resistant are peas, beets, parsnip, carrot, parsley, cauliflower, squash and melons.

You may wonder why the lists are so short and many vegetables are not listed. Unfortunately, no one is giving large grants for this kind of research. And in the world of tight money, research and funding often dance hand-in-hand. Try to place your garden at least 50 feet away from a big walnut to lessen the possibility of juglone-related deaths.

Contact Gretchen Voyle, MSU Extension-Livingston County horticulture educator at (517) 546-3950.

About Gretchen Voyle 51 Articles
Gretchen Voyle is the MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture Educator. She can be reached at (517) 546-3950.