DEAR JOAN: A few years ago, I started feeding an opossum that showed up on my back porch in the middle of winter injured, weak and sickly.
She was living under my deck and took kindly to the food I started putting out for her, and she came every night looking for it. After a few weeks she got stronger, her wounds were healing, and she was doing much better.
I started seeing her only occasionally so I quit putting out food, but she has come back every winter since, only no longer sickly. I know it’s the same opossum because she has quite a battle wound scar at the base of her tail.
Well, around Mother’s Day, she showed up with three babies. I put a little bowl of strawberries and bananas out for her for a proper Mother’s Day celebration, and she and her babies took full advantage. They are scooting around on their own, not riding on her back, so I know they are now learning to feed themselves.
I’m feeling like I should withhold food now, as I’m afraid the babies will become dependent on it and not learn to fend for themselves, but I sure love watching them through my sliding glass door. My cat loves Mama Opossum too and always alerts me to her arrival.
Just looking for your confirmation that although I’d love to keep putting out treats, and watch these little beauties grow up, it’s not in their best interest.
DEAR LORI: While you certainly provided a kindness to the opossum when you gave her food, allowing her to recover from her injuries and regain her strength and most likely saving her life, it’s generally not a good idea to actively feed wildlife.
For one, it’s against the law. For another, it can lead to problems for the animal. Not everyone is happy to have wildlife in their yards, and they might take drastic measures if the opossum visits their back porch.
That said, we often inadvertently provide food for wildlife, when they visit our vegetable gardens and fruit trees. We didn’t plant those gardens and orchards for them, but we are feeding them nonetheless.
I don’t think putting out a few treats on occasion will keep the joeys from learning how to forage on their own, as long as you are not attempting to feed by hand, which I know you aren’t. But it would be best to stop and let Mama Opossum handle the feeding duties.
DEAR JOAN: We found a nest of eggs on the ground. We have no idea who they belong to, and we’re hoping you could identify the owner of the nest. They are tan with darker brown splashes.
Marty B, Brentwood
DEAR MARTY: I think the nest and its eggs belong to a killdeer, which is a type of plover common in the Bay Area. While technically a shore bird, the killdeer lives in many locations.
A killdeer creates its nest by scratching out a shallow depression, usually beneath shrubs or some sort of concealment, and begins laying her eggs. She usually adds some rocks, shells, sticks and even trash to help camouflage the eggs.
The bird gets its unusual name by its high pitched “kill deer” call. To draw predators away from the nest, the killdeer will fake an injured wing.
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