Sunday, February 19, 2006

Mystery Mammal

The backyard of my house backs onto a drainage ditch. Today, on the edge of the lawn and the ditch, we saw a curious little mammalian. It was a brownish, grayish dark color with a long, bald tail. My mother thought it was a rat, since they apparently live in the ditch, but it really didn't look like it to me, so I went out to investigate. He was so focused on rooting away in the grass, looking for whatever it is he eats (roots or insects, I guess) that I got right up to him. He didn't even look in my direction. His tail was rather rat-like (though the tail was black and I've only seen flesh-colored rat tails), but it didn't have a ratty head. Its head was almost beaver-like, I thought, and much cuter than your typical rat.

When I got back inside, I reported that it didn't look like a rat to me. Then we thought it might be a possum, since they're the only other mammals with a bald tail we could think of. But I've just spent some time researching on the Internet and possums don't have black tails and they're more grayish than brownish. I can't find any animal, really, that squares with what I saw. The closest were like nutria and woodchucks, but the ditch is dry and we don't live near any ponds or creeks, so they'd have no reason to live there.

Anyone have any ideas as to what it was? We have a colony of rabbits in our neighborhood, but we've never seen any animal like the one today. Should we be worried that we have some sort of pest infestation or is it just a harmless creature rooting for food?


HoJo said...

It could've been a vole or muskrat. If your mum thought it a rat, I think the vole is the smaller of the two.

GayProf said...

Sorry, I can't help you with the identity of your creature. I can say, though, if it was a possum there is NO WAY you would have thought it "cute." They are nasty, nasty creatures.

Frank said...

Well, HoJo, it definitely wasn't a vole. However, it could very well have been a muskrat. The pictures I've found of muskrats do look a great deal like the creature I saw. The only problem is that muskrats seem to like the water and, as I said, there's really no water around. Still, it could have just been in the middle of a move or a landlubbing species, I guess.

Gayprof: How can you not find the only non-Australian marsupial left in the world cute? The poor things are all alone in the world.