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Pernicious possum runs rampant in flower shop

December 01, 1998|By DON AINES

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Most vandals resort to spray paint or rocks, but Bob Chaney said his business was damaged over the holiday weekend by a possum.

Yes, the tree-dwelling marsupial familiar to motorists as road kill and to TV viewers as a favorite entree of the Clampetts.

Chaney, owner of Bob's Florist and Gifts at 9 E. Baltimore St., said he believes three juveniles left the possum in his shop on Wednesday afternoon. Over the next three days, the animal made a shambles of the shop before being spotted by a passer-by and captured by a professional animal handler.

"I still can't believe it," Chaney said Monday.

He said he believed the three juveniles, all about middle school age, left the possum in the store around 5 p.m. Chaney left about 30 minutes later but returned at 6 p.m. to find a few items on the floor.

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He thought nothing of it but returned at about 9:30 p.m. to work on some shelves. Again he found merchandise on the floor.

As he worked until 4 a.m. Thursday, he heard sounds but thought it was the rain against the windows.

"There was stuff all over the place," when he came back late Thursday morning but no sign the business had been broken into, Chaney said.

"There was ribbon everywhere, flower arrangements all over the place," he said describing the mess he found Friday morning.

Early Saturday, the mystery was solved. A young woman and her date were walking home when they passed the store.

She called Chaney at about 1 a.m. and told him, "You have a possum in the window."

As possums do, it played possum during the day and wreaked havoc at night. During business hours it hid behind a steam radiator.

Chaney called Dunkle's Wildlife Pest Control of Spring Run, Pa. Ray Dunkle, who is licensed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Department of Agriculture, arrived at about 4:10 p.m. By 4:20 p.m., the possum was in custody.

"I got him by the tail the first time, but he got loose," Dunkle said.

Chaney helped force the long-tailed intruder out of his hiding place and Dunkle grabbed it behind the head.

"This gentleman had the potential of losing a lot of valuable glassware" and other merchandise, Dunkle said. He said an older, larger possum could have done serious damage.

This story might have had a sad ending - at least for the possum. Dunkle said state regulations require skunks, foxes, raccoons and some other animals to be euthanized when caught because of the threat of rabies.

Possums were taken off the death list a year or so ago, he said.

Dunkle drove the caged animal to a wooded area near his home.

"I opened the crate and let the little guy loose. He was gone like greased lightning," he said. "He's made a happy home on the Timmons Mountain."

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