A story from another expat…

We don’t live in the country. We live in a working class neighborhood in Villa de las Acacias, Panama, about 3 miles from Tocumen Airport. We and many of our neighbors have either planted trees or left in place the ones that were here before the area was developed. As a result, there is a lot of wildlife in the area. We have squirrels, parrots, possums, owls, hawks, hummingbirds, lots of songbirds, spiders, and of course, snakes.

We removed a 5 feet long Cayman from the creek behind a neighbor’s house. Over the years we have had snakes, crabs, giant moths, bats, a squirrel, hummingbirds, and many families of mice in the house. I killed a Fer de Lance in the kitchen, and Boa sightings are fairly common. About once a month a Hummingbird will fly in the open front door and make repeated attempts to fly out one of the windows, forcing us to remove the screen on the living room window and allow it to escape.

Many of these invasions are only a minor irritant and sometimes even amusing, poisonous snakes being an obvious exception, but our most recent invader was a royal pain in the backside. A small possum found a vent hole large enough to squeeze itself into the ceiling space above Nora’s computer room/office.

Our home has the typical cielo raso (suspended foam panels) found in many Panamanian homes, and even with the fiberglass insulation we had installed there is still about 6 inches of space between the ceiling and the roof. One small panel had been moved to run some CAT-5 cable from her computer to the router, leaving a small hole. Imagine her surprise when she heard a sound from that corner of the room and looked up to see a possum looking down at her. The possum quickly withdrew, and so began an almost month long effort to convince our uninvited guest to find a new home. For a while it was just pushing or rapping against the ceiling when we heard movement, but the possum escalated the struggle when it decided that the space directly above Nora’s filing cabinet and computer was a good location for a toilet. We are still undecided if it deposited ordinary urine or territory marking spray, but whichever the case, it
made the room uninhabitable and forced Nora to throw away some things.

My participation in the war was suspended when I was admitted to Paitilla Hospital for a week-long treatment of IV antibiotics to combat a nasty leg infection. After that, I returned home to find that Henry 3 had found where the possum was gaining entrance, and that the hole could be easily closed. There remained only the small task of convincing the possum to leave its cozy hideaway long enough to close the hole. First we tried seeding the ceiling with mothballs. This induced a fit of possum-sneezing but not much movement toward the exit. Knowing the animal is nocturnal we waited until nighttime, and hearing movement in the area of the hole, we thought it was gone. I waited a half-hour and drove a slab of wood into the hole. The next day, we discovered that what we thought were exit noises was actually a toilet break. Out came the hole stopper.

I arranged a mono-filament string over the hole as a tell-tale and then applied a good dose of 10% pepper spray in the area of the nest. That night Nora again heard movement near the hole and after about 20 minutes I went outside and discovered the tell-tale hanging down and immediately drove the stopper back in.

Three days later there have been no sounds, no rancid odors, and presumably no possum. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

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