Eileen the Opossum and Other Friends Visit Ferndale Library

Eileen the Opossum and Other Friends Visit Ferndale Library

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Feb. 22, 2017)

Ferndale, MI – Darcy the Porcupine was a favorite among the animals that visited the Ferndale Area District Library on Tuesday.  “I liked her because she was big and spiky,” said Max Hobbs.

His friend Luke Jarvis also liked the porcupine.  “We just saw a cartoon with a porcupine and it shot its quills, but we learned today they don’t really shoot their quills,” he said.

Dispelling myths about animals is one of the ways trainers from the Howell Nature Center help to protect wildlife.

Baumgartner told the story of how Darcy came to be at the Center, stating that up north in Michigan a lot of people shoot porcupines “with no questions asked.” A man saw a porcupine come out of the woods, and killed it.

“Then this little tiny porcu-pet came out of the woods, and the man felt bad that he had shot its mom, so he took the little porcu-pet to a certified rehabilitation specialist.”  The porcupine grew but was too accustomed to people to be returned to the wild, so she came to live at the Howell Nature Center instead.

The Nature Center takes in injured or orphaned animals and birds.  In 2016 they took in over 3,000 injured and orphaned wild animals—more than it had in all of 2015 and every year before.  Often animals are rehabilitated and returned to the wild. Some, however, need to remain in the protection of the Center, and some even get to be part of educational programs like the one that visited Ferndale.

Darcy was joined by Kili the Bald Eagle, Eileen the Opossum, and Miss Stella the Ferret.

When Eileen came out of her cage, several of the students cringed or responded with “eeew.”  “Most people see opossum in their trash can making angry faces at them,” Baumgartner said.  “Your trash can is like a buffet of leftovers to them.”

She explained that opossums are “not very smart,” and that when they show their teeth they are trying to look intimidating, but are really hoping not to be eaten.  “If they get stressed their brain shuts down and they wet themselves, and go into a cationic state for up to 6 hours.  Who would want to mess with something that smelled bad and looked dead?” she said. This defense mechanism is where the phrase “playing opossum” comes from.

Eileen came to the Howell Nature Center as a baby. One of her legs was nearly completely gone and she could not be sent back to the wild.  Her name is Eileen because of the way the injury makes her walk, a pun that made the children chuckle.  Parents were also happy to learn that opossums almost never carry rabies and they are beneficial because they help deter pests.

Learn more about animals and the Howell Nature Center at http://howellnaturecenter.org/.

For area event listings visit http://oaklandcounty115.com/events/.

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