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December 17, 2015     The Woodville Republican
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December 17, 2015
 

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The Woodville Republican, Thursday, December 17, 2015 Page 13B sum! by Jessica Tegt Wildlife Extension Professor Mississippi State University Extension Service Often found scavenging in trash cans or seen lying dead on roadsides after car collisions, opossums are not the most revered or under- stood wildlife creatures in Mississippi. Yet North America'sr only native marsupial (of- ten called a "possum") is really quite a unique ani- mal. The female opossum carries its young in an ab- dominal pouch for several weeks during the gestation process. About the size of a house cat, the opossum has coarse grayish-white fur, a pointed face and a hairless, prehensile tail that allows it to hold and manipulate objects. Opossums are able to carry nesting material and other objects in their small, hand-like front paws and are well adapted for climbing. Opossums are nocturnal animals,, so they are typi- cally active at night. Many homeowners never see these creatures traveling through yards and neigh- borhoods, but they may find evidence of the animals' presence in the morning. Droppings, nesting mate- rial, ravaged vegetable gar- dens, empty pet food bowls, and damaged compost piles or garbage cans can all in- dicate the presence of opos- sums. While their natural habi- tats are diverse -- rang- Ing from arid to moist and wooded to open fields -- opossums prefer environ- ments near streams or wet- lands. They take shelter in abandoned burrows of other animals, in tree cavities and brush piles, and beneath other dense cover. In urban and suburban settings, opossums may den under steps, porches, decks and garden tool sheds. If they can gain access, opos- sums may also den beneath houses or in attics and ga- rages. They make untidy nests of sticks and what- ever else may be available. Nest components appear piled together rather than Let Heaven OPOSSUMS CAN BE PESTS -- Opossums that live near people may visit vegetable gardens, compost piles, pet food dishes or garbage cans such as this one. -- Photo by MSU Extension/Evan O'Donnell Nature Sing ! May the pure joy of Christmastime flourish all around you and in your heart this season. Thanks for being a bright spot in our year. We wish you and yours a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2016. woven or stacked. The opossum is a true omnivore, feeding on fruits, nuts, insects, snails, snakes, frogs, green plants, birds and their eggs, and mice, rats, meadow voles and oth- .... BuffaloWood,Land & Timber Inc. :, ....... .... For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be z on his shoulder, and his name shall be called l/Vondeuqd Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 er small mammals. It eats both fresh meat and carrion and is often seen feeding on road kills, a habit that makes it vulnerable to be- ing struck by cars. Opossums that live near humans may visit vegeta- ble gardens, compost piles, garbage cans or food dishes intended for pets, which many people consider nui- sance behavior. Having lost much of their natural fear of people, opossums will even enter homes through pet doors in search of food. Fortunately, opossums are not aggressive unless cornered. Since they are not fast animals, opossums have developed alternative defense mechanisms. Most q notably, they growl, hiss and bare their teeth when threatened. Sometimes they feign death, which is actually a nervous shock reaction. Opossums pose more of a threat to domestic pets. When fighting with dogs and cats, an opossum can inflict serious injuries with its mouthful of sharp, pointed teeth. The animals can carry diseases such as leptospirosis, tuberculosis, tularemia, toxoplasmosis, coccidiosis, trichomoniasis, spotted fever, relapsing fe- ver and Chagas disease. Opossums may be infested with fleas, ticks, mites and lice. They are hosts for cat and dog fleas, especially in urban environments. Opossums are highly adaptable and are great survivors. Once they have invaded a neighborhood, the animals are probably there to stay as long as food, water and shelter are avail- able. In Mississippi, the opos- sum is classified as a non- game animal _and can be removed using any legal means. Check with your local animal control agen- cy before taking action to make sure there are no lo- cal restrictions pertaining to opossum removal. Opossums are not wary of traps and can be caught easily with box or cage-type, live-catch traps. To avoid the possibility of trapping a cat, do not use fish-flavored pet food to bait traps. Try using whole, raw chicken eggs or bits of bread smeared with jam or peanut butter. Other baits can include overripe fruit such as grapes, banan- as or melons. Live trapping presents the problem of dealing with the animal once it is cap- tured. It is illegal to relo- cate an opossum without a permit. Those who do not want to deal with its dis- posal may prefer to hire a professional wildlife control operator, who is equipped to handle problem wildlife in a legal and humane manner. You can find wildlife control operators listed under "Pest Control" in the phone book's yellow pages. Prevention and control methods for opossums in- clude reducing the shelter and food available to the an- imals. Cut back overgrown shrubbery, and trim tree limbs back from any build- ing's roof. If you own fruit trees, remove fallen fruit frequently. Stack firewood tightly, and store scrap lum- ber at least 18 inches offthe ground. Keep garbage cans tightly lidded, and place pet food indoors overnight. To exclude opossums from buildings and shel- ters, close off all potential entrances or openings un- der houses, decks, garden tool sheds, mobile homes and other structures with 1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth. When driving at night, always scan the sides of the road for signs of move- ment. Since opossum are slow-moving animals, alert drivers can often avoid col- lisions. Internet Safety: Monitor Your Child's Online Activities Your Better Business Bu- reau advises parents to not only check their own online security habits, but also their children's. Now that school is back in full s~ng, it's time to give your children a refresher course in online safety. Al- though some parents help their kids with their first ba- by steps online, most do not. According to a study by the National Cyber Security~ Alliance (~NC~SA)~ 74 p~rce~2t ofparefits:stkrveyed a'dmi~t~d /; May the miracle of His birth fill your heart with light at Christmastime and all year. Rejoice! ALDERMEN Betty S. D'Aquila Thomas E. Lobrano, DDS John P. Moore Mary Sanders Mary West CITY ATTORNEY Gene Home MAYOR Larry J. Lee CITY CLERK Michelle Singleton DEPUTY CLERKS Jerrie Love Kimberly Montgomery City Hall-will be olo ed Dec. 2:3, 24 $ 25 and Pec. 31 E, January 1 they did not monitor their children's online activities. This is particularly impor- tant, since the NCSA study also reports seven out of ten .children are victims of cyber bunymg. The good news is that the study further revealed that talking to your children and reminding them about safe online behavior does have an impact. The survey also finds that 46 percent of young peo- pl~ say they would change their online habits if their parents were paying atten- tion. The most important is- sue for young internet new- comers is an understanding of how to use the internet safely, and just as important, monitoring their online ac- tivities until you are satisfied that your kids are following your advice and warnings. Children may not know bet- ter or have the necessary judginent to understand the consequences of their ac- tions. Older children may have experience online, but that doesn't mean they necessari- ly follow the family's internet safety rifles. We know that online threats evolve and we should make sure that we, as well as our children, under- stand those risks and how to avoid them. BBB has an Internet Safety checklist to help keep your family and private in- formation safe: Monitor their social me- dia presence -- You should know where they have accounts or profiles and what information they are sharing. Set family rules, and ask your children for their passwords for those sites. Check privacy settings -- This is good advice for the kids and adults. Websites change default privacy set- tings from time to time, and you will want to know who can see a social media profile, as well as what information i or str/ g s Verify apps and games -- Do you know which ones your kids are using? Are they free? Do they have a pri- vacy policy and do they allow you to opt out of information sharing? Make sure apps are downloaded from reliable SOUrCes. Set sharing parameters -- Aside from commerce, entertainment and informa- tion, the internet is all about sharing, but you should know if they are sharing photos, personal information, your location, telephone number, address and when you are going on vacation. Explain to your children the concept of not sharing inappropriate in- formation about themselves or the family. Explain instant messag- ing and chat features -- It is essential that your chil- dren understand that if they don't know someone in real life, they don't need to chat with them online. Basically it's what we have all been taught: don't talk to strang- ers.