The Wood Chipper

WARNING: Contains scenes of suburban horror that may traumatise some readers.

The other day, someone knocked on my door.


Thanks to the sign from my slightly paranoid electricity provider, I was pretty confident whoever it was must be looking for me, so I answered.

It was a tree lopping company, come to cut down my non-existent tree.

I immediately had flashbacks to what might have been the start of Evie’s porno career, but alas, this was not a ruse for desperate housewives!

Since they had the wrong address, I pointed them in the vague direction of the tree killers, and returned to my online activities, thus entering the first stage of grief known as Denial.

Twenty minutes later, the noise was getting out of hand. I go and take a glimpse out my kitchen window…

…and see not one, but TWO sources of suburban horror:

  • Strange man jumping over the fence into my back yard.
  • Bare blue sky in the space where my little possum friend ought to be asleep!


In a panic, I shuffle outside to murmur the blatant obvious:

“You cut down the tree…” (Bargaining)

Mr Tree Lopper glances up from his leaf gathering efforts, “Yeah, sorry.”

I can hear a noise from the street that sounds suspiciously like a hungry wood chipper, and try not to think what that might mean.

“But, there was a possum living in that tree…” (Bargaining)

“Oh, was there? We didn’t see anything…”

Mr Tree Lopper carries on with his leaf gathering efforts, not remotely uncomfortable about the fact he’s trespassing in my yard, or that his friend might have just committed possum murder.

I had no idea what else to say, so naturally, I went inside and messaged Ms. (Anger)


And after that, put a sad status update on Facebook. (Depression)

Screen shot 2014-06-03 at 12.23.25 PM

And after that, placed a hex on my neighbours on Twitter. (Anger)

Screen shot 2014-06-03 at 12.24.10 PM

When Ms got home, she immediately climbed the fence to yell at the neighbours. (Anger)

But just as she started waving and ‘yoo hooing’ like a crazy person, we heard a rustle in the lemon tree nearby.

Sure enough, out popped a tiny Ringtail, totally unperturbed by the days events.


Could it be? (Bargaining)

Ms called the local wildlife experts and (after a friendly chat with the neighbour), we concluded that our possum may well have survived the wood chipper. (Denial)

I followed this up with some internet research, and learned some interesting facts:

  • The timid, herbivorous marsupials have a territory radius of about 50m, in which a Daddy and one or two Mummy ringtails, along with their recent offspring, coexist in Big Love bliss.
  • Ringtails tend to sleep solitary and frequently bed hop, having up to 8 nests in their territory.

Considering the neighbour recently moved in with a dog who is suffering separation anxiety, it’s more than likely our little possum moved beds to get a decent sleep. (Denial)

At any rate, that’s the story I’m telling everyone because (considering my utter failure to defend the rights of my tree dwelling friends) the alternative is too horrific.

Have you ever saved, or tried to save, or failed to save, a creature from harm?


  1. says

    We have a neighbor (next block) who obliterated habitat using the tree cutters. It has saddened all of us.We’re talking bald eagles, ospreys, yellow crowned night herons, etc. She doesn’t mind paying the fines to get what she wants. And yes, the residents all go through all those emotional stages. Am glad Mr. Ringtail got out of the way.

    • says

      I truly don’t understand the mentality of people like that – what has the wildlife ever done to them, that they have to obliterate it – for the sake of what? Not a good way to make friends with the neighbours, either! The ringtail timed his / her appearance very well 🙂

  2. Catherine Johnson says

    I’m glad they didn’t kill a possum. We see loads on the roads over here. It is sad when trees get cut down. It might wake up the snakes 😉

  3. says

    I feel equal rage towards people who run over snakes in the road – as in, they pass one, then back up so they can get a better angle, and press the accelerator.

    I did hear a story once about a man who did this and had the snake flipped up into his lap by the force (he was in a convertible). Now THAT makes me happy. 🙂

  4. says

    Many years ago I found some injured birds on the road near the farm (I honestly don’t know how five of them could have been injured at once – but feared foul play!). They were Rainbow Lorikeets. So I bought them home, made them a cage and nursed them back to health. Four of them survived (and I balled my eyes out when the fifth died) and I released them back into the wild. I absolutely love animals and think I probably would have been very annoyed with the cutting down of the possum tree as well.

    • says

      Sounds suspicious that five were injured at once…beautiful creatures, the Rainbow Lorikeet. I’m glad you were able to nurse the other four back to health…I’ve considered volunteering to foster injured wildlife, now that I don’t have any pets. May still do that yet (though I suspect I’ll be sad to let them go!) 🙂

  5. says

    He’s totally still alive. He would have woken up and scampered off before they even got started. He’s probably munching on lemons and feeling excited about his new digs right now.

  6. says

    On a lovely winding backroad, I once stopped my motorbike and went back to stand guard while an echidna slowly made his way across the road. A police car stopped, and the officers waited with me until the echidna was safely across.
    We chatted about wildlife, the beautiful trees, other stuff. The conversation never did get around to whether or not my bike was registered, or why one of the tyres was completely bald.

  7. says

    Well, you can imagine this story is upsetting me! I really hope that your little possum friend is okay. Stupid people! I hate it when people cut down trees without even first looking to see if there is a nest. I realize we can’t save every last critter, but we could at least make a half-assed effort!

    I rescue as many creatures as I possibly can. From bees and mice to bats and foxes. Sometimes, I am too late. Most of the time, I’m successful though.

    • says

      Half assed effort – that’s right! How hard is it to at least check first? The bees and mice and bats and foxes will all bless you for caring – it’s the little creatures that are so easily overlooked xo

  8. says

    A resilient possum. Yay. 🙂 My kids once found a baby deer in the alley behind our houses. It’s unusual to see deer in our area bc we live too close to heavy traffic roads. We called the local wildlife experts and someone came out to help reunite the baby with it’s mom. The mom had popped up in our neighborhood a couple of times, presumably looking for her baby. So the experts blindfolded the baby (so it wouldn’t be afraid) and put her near the area where we’d last seen the mom. Sure enough the mom came and led her out of our neighborhood. 🙂

    • says

      That’s such a special story, Coleen! Thanks so much for sharing that…I can see mummy deer popping her head up over fences and appearing in windows. Lovely to hear a happy ending to that story!

  9. says

    WTF?! I hope your possum friend is okay. What a bunch of BS.

    I ended up with two pet rabbits over my early adult years after rescuing them. This happened at completely different times, but they were both definitely domesticated and clearly they were let go by some evil people.

    • says

      Oh, creatures who are dumped…that’s heartbreaking! I know people who’ve had guinea pigs because they think they’re easier than getting a dog, and then the creatures suffer and are ultimately discarded. Gah. So glad the bunnies found a home with you!

  10. says

    In Los Angeles, some new people bought our building and proceeded to knock down two swallows nests … they had nested there for over a decade. When I told them to leave it alone (swallows will come back once, but no more than that) they said they thought they were hornets! When the swallows came back, they knocked the nest down again. How freaking big did they think those ‘hornets’ were?? (I recently had to force a queen paper wasp to relocate her nest. Even though I could use the back door for the summer, my landlord would definitely have destroyed her nest. Better to force relocation before she had begun laying and give her a chance.)

    Now, on the positive side of things, I used to live in a town that had a turtle crossing at a certain time of year. Every single person drove slowly on the street, and when turtles were crossing, would stop their car (middle of the road) and carry the turtles across the street (in the direction they were going … turtles are single minded when they’re on the move.) So about one hundred people did this, every year, for a few weeks to a month.

    It’s not all horrible.

    And I actually think your little ringtails are okay. If they have multiple nests, they definitely moved.

  11. says

    The possum is fine, THE POSSUM IS FINE. If you say things in capitals then it has to be true. I’m trying to think of a time when I saved or failed to save wildlife. I wish I had a nice story but there was a traumatic occasion a few years ago when I was driving along a country road and a mother rabbit and baby rabbits suddenly burst forth from the side and under my wheels! There was nothing I could do, they must have been startled by something just before I got there because they shot out from the side so quickly, I had no time to stop or swerve or anything, I HAD NO TIME TO STOP OR SWERVE OR ANYTHING. It was very upsetting.

    • says

      Oh, god, that would have been traumatic. It’s a sad reality that these things are sometimes unavoidable. I’ve had some close calls, I must say – kangaroos have a way of bounding out onto our country roads without warning. I’m just lucky the timing has never been so close as that. Accidents do happen and, yes, THE POSSUM IS FINE! 😉

  12. liz says

    In with you, friend. I so not understand the need to kill and destroy and beat our chests proving that we can conquer nature. Gaaahh. It infuriates me! Sending good wishes to your possum buddy. xx

  13. says

    Alarna as much as I hate seeing trees cut down your possum is probably tougher than you think, my husband suspects animals are evolving with humans. Maybe one day the possum will have its revenge on the neighbours, they were great at scooting across our roof in our suburban house and dam noisy critters, but I would never cut their tree down. We saved a baby Kookaburra the other day which must have fallen out of a nest we could not find…it could not fly so I took it to the local vets and they gave it to wires.

    • says

      I suspect your hubby is right! They probably pick up on the signs way sooner than we know, especially these clever little urban possums. A baby kooka? I haven’t seen one of those. Lucky you found it before a hungry predator!

  14. No1talks says

    Have you ever saved, or tried to save, or failed to save, a creature from harm?

    One time in my old neighborhood I came home parked the car and I see about six kids (from 5 to 12 years old) 3 houses down.

    One of the kids had a plastic bag open on the floor and was trying to get a Squirrel go into the bag, to my horror, even when I knew what they were trying to do I asked: what do you have there?
    -he said: we’re trying to get the squirrel in the bag to take it home and show it to this lady!-
    yelling because I was so mad this stupid kids have no respect for the little animal and myself either, I said:
    -don’t you know if you place an animal in a plastic bag it might not survive because it has no way of breathing?!
    don’t they teach you that at home or in school????
    during this time the squirrel didn’t scape even when I provided the necessary distraction, the squirrel is not moving, just looking around, so I went to plan “let’s save it” then I placed my hand to top of the squirrel graving it by the trunk as gentle as I could be and run off in my apartments direction, the squirrel did not bite, rolled from my hand to my trunk, got on my shoulder and jumped to a near by tree. I guess not bitting me was the thank you.
    …and I told the kids if I ever see them trying to do the same I will kick their asses.
    -I think the squirrel had poor vision or was in shock for all the attention, never seen a squirrel so slow to react-

    I expected their moms or big brothers to come to my home and yell at me for yelling at their kids and/or for being bold enough to tell them I’ll kick their asses, but didn’t happen.

    I feel your pain, I hope you passed the denial phase, but YES, humans have an incredible need for destruction and reorganization of nature, who are we to tell if a tree belongs where? puff.


    • says

      This is the best story ever! Those kids probably got the fright of their lives – it’s all in the tone of voice, right? 😉

      It goes without saying that I’d be too chicken to take on that many kids at once, but its nice to know there’s someone out there defending the little guys. Poor squirrel was obviously scared out of its wits, and I DO believe animals know the difference, and have their own way of saying thanks. Not as stupid as everyone makes them out to be…

      Please tell more stories (and lovely surprise to see you here!) 🙂

  15. says

    I’m sure the possum survived Alarna. But, why did they cut the tree? Was it sick? What other reason would they have? I love my street because there are so many trees, it’s beautiful.

  16. says

    Every time I hear a tree chipper, it reminds me of that scene in “Fargo”. Remember the foot scene? Sometimes it seems like people who chop down trees do it just because they can, and because they are way into the chipping part. As for possums … We-e-e-ll,… possums were introduced in the US, have few natural enemies and are a bit of a problem here, but I will swallow my prejudice. They do have cute faces.

    • says

      I have seen Fargo, though I don’t remember the foot scene. Probably blocked it out! But you are right – people do a lot of things just because they can. Someone else mentioned chest thumping…

      Introduced possums can become a pest – as has apparently happened in New Zealand with the Brushtail possum. But I wonder if we are talking about the same possum? The ones we have are quite different to the Opossum. We have numerous species, many of which are endangered, and definitely not at the level of nuisance as as you may experience in US (though that’s an interesting topic in itself – differing ideas of what constitutes a ‘pest’) 🙂

  17. says

    Well I am glad the poor old possum is ok! I can’t believe someone just thought it would be cool to waltz in your yard and start hacking at trees!
    I wasn’t sure where this story was headed when I first read someone arriving to lop your tree!

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