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North Bay Village's possum problem blamed on cat food

The morning of August 21, a pesky intruder found itself caged in the lush back yard of Richard Chervony's three-bedroom residence in North Bay Village. Bearing its fangs and emitting a guttural growl, the creature spied Chervony with its black doll eyes. Its furry, salt-and-pepper body and bald, pink tail didn't move. "It was bigger than the one I caught the night before," Chervony asserts. "Both of them were ugly as shit."

Chervony showed Riptide photos he took of the dastardly being. It looked like a mutant flesh-eating rat from Mars. In reality, it is the only marsupial native to North America, and it often wreaks havoc on the psyche of the average South Florida homeowner. In North Bay Village, the possum epidemic began about three years ago, Chervony says. "I've personally trapped about eight or nine of them," he notes. "It's gotten so bad I don't have to lay any bait. They just follow the scent of the other possums."

He wants the North Bay Village Police Department to take over possum-trapping duties because it costs him $150 every time he has to call a nuisance-animal removal service to wrangle the varmints. Miami-Dade Animal Services won't take the possums away because his fellow residents created the problem, Chervony adds. "We've got people who feed stray cats, so when they leave food out, it attracts the possums and raccoons," he says. "I can't put up with it anymore."

Joe Perez, who's been trapping possums for 15 years, says the marsupials love to take advantage of dumpsters, fallen fruit from trees, and unattended cat food. "It's not the animal's fault," Perez says. "Possums can adapt to any urban environment."

Trappers usually either release the possums into the wild or euthanize them. There are also folks, such as the Possum Posse of Miami and 19-year-old Fort Lauderdale resident Trina Mason, who rescue the critters. "They are really harmless," says Mason, who was 15 when she rescued her first possum. Her MySpace profile photo shows her holding a possum dressed in a Rasta-themed baby onesie and a dreadlocked wig.

"I just don't think people understand them," she says, adding that as pets, possums can live up to 18 years. "So I like to change their perspective."


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