Yikes! I walked out our front door this morning and discovered a dead opossum in our front yard. We have eleven oak trees in our front yard so I’m used to seeing lots of birds and squirrels, but finding this rather took me back a step.
Hosting lots of urban wildlife is the best thing about our front yard. It inspires us with the simple beauty of nature and it provides hours of wonderment and amusement for our dog. But not every creature is a welcome or adorable. When I saw large bites taken out of my halloween pumpkins, I pinned the blame on the squirrels but since I found the opossum, maybe they weren’t the only animals feasting on the pumpkins.
But, back to the opossum, also referred to as a possum for some reason (maybe it’s easier to say)? Once I made the discovery, I called my co-publishing partner Liz Fuller, who explained that I simply needed to call 311 and the city’s Department of Sanitation Dead Animal Pickup service will come and pick it up within 24 hours.
“It’s my favorite department in the city,” exclaimed Liz. “They are awesome! They have probably the worst job of all, and deal with really stinky stuff, especially when it’s hot, but they are great.”
But I had questions. Like “What caused its demise?”, “Should I be concerned about poison or something dangerous in the yard?” “Why can’t I just wrap it in plastic bags and put it in the trash?”…and finally, “How does the city dispose of the animals it picks up?”
I called the City, using the contact button on the MyLA311 app I have on my phone, and was connected to (213) 473-3231. After a short wait, I spoke to an operator who took all the information and said she would have the staff call when they are coming out so so I could help them locate the animal. I agreed to give them permission to enter the yard, and she said no live animals may be in the yard when the pickup crew comes. Then, because she didn’t know the answers to my questions, she connected me to the Department of Sanitation.
After a longer wait, the operator who took my call explained the department has no way of knowing the cause of death of an animal. He speculated that it could be old age or maybe it was attacked by a dog. He said dead animals need to be disposed of properly to avoid contamination and disease. He also explained that the City incinerates dead animals, so residents should not place dead animals in the trash.
Shortly after I started writing this post, and very soon after my call, a sanitation worker called me to say they were in front of my house and ready to pick up the animal. I showed him where the animal was and he told me he’d picked up a quite a few opossums and this one looked like it had recently died, though he had no idea what might have caused its demise.
He was very professional and even let me take a few photos. Thank you LA City Department of Sanitation!