Thursday, January 19, 2012

An opossum is on a Brooklyn subway, and the New York Times is surprised.

An article in the New York Times from earlier this week says:

Last Friday — yes, it happened to be the 13th — the straphangers on a late-night D train were startled to discover that a nonhuman creature was in their midst. An opossum, to be precise.

The intrepid marsupial, which had apparently boarded after the train departed from its Coney Island terminus, had curled up beneath a seat, comfortably close to a radiator, as the train rattled through the wilds of Brooklyn.

There were several reasons this was rather strange.

For one thing, opossums tend to like trees. They are not big burrowers, although they have been known to venture below ground in search of food or warmth. And unlike rats or pigeons (often seen on A trains in the Rockaways), they do not commonly carouse within the city’s mass transit system. . . .

Neither the Police Department nor New York City Transit keeps statistics on subway animal incursions. But officials from both agencies said that such an occurrence was rare.

“A wild animal? This is the first anybody could remember,” said Charles F. Seaton, a transit authority spokesman, who sounded quite amused by the tale.
Back in 2010, I blogged an article in the New York Post that would seem to explain why we're seeing opossums in unusual places:
The city played possum -- and Brooklyn residents lost.

In a bizarre attempt to outwit Mother Nature, city officials introduced beady-eyed opossums in Brooklyn years ago to scarf down rats running amok in the borough, according to local officials.

Surprise: Operation opossum didn't work.

Not only do wily rats continue to thrive, but the opossums have become their own epidemic, with bands of the conniving creatures sauntering through yards, plundering garbage cans and noshing on fruit trees.

They've even taken up golf, with two sightings of the whiskered marsupials at the Dyker Heights municipal course in the past week, local officials said.

"They are everywhere," said Theresa Scavo, chairwoman for Community Board 15, which represents Sheepshead Bay and surrounding south Brooklyn neighborhoods.

"Didn't any of those brain surgeons realize that the opossums were going to multiply?" . . .

The opossums were set free in local parks and underneath the Coney Island boardwalk, with the theory being they would die off once the rats were gobbled up, said Councilman Domenic Recchia (D-Brooklyn).

Instead, the critters have been populating, spreading to Park Slope and Manhattan. . . .

The critters have a mouth full of 50 sharp teeth, tend to exude a foul odor, and can occasionally contract rabies, said Stuart Mitchell, an entomologist.