“Playing Dead” Like an Opossum–SFWMD, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Opossum plays dead to ward off attackers. As soon as attackers leave the area, the opossum will walk safely away. (Public photo)
Opossum plays dead to ward off attackers. This is where the expression “to play opossum” comes from. As soon as attackers leave the area, the opossum will walk safely away. Most animals will not pursue carrion. This seemed to be the strategy of the SFWMD Governing Board at yesterday’s meeting in West Palm Beach. (Public photo.)
2015 board of the SFWMD. The board did not respond to the public's request for the purchase of US Sugar option lands south of Lake Okeechobee. (Photo JTL, 3-12-15.)
2015 board of the SFWMD. The board did not respond to the public’s request for the purchase of US Sugar option lands south of Lake Okeechobee. (Photo JTL, 3-12-15.)
Governing Board, SFWMD, 2015.
Governing Board, SFWMD, 2015.

There are really just a couple of things you can do when you are “attacked” or “think you are  being attacked.” You can fight back, or you can “play opossum–play dead.”

Sometimes, the game is over faster if you “play opossum,” and simply don’t respond.

This happens in my yard a lot with my dogs and opossums here in the Town of Sewall’s Point, and it in my opinion, it happened yesterday at the South Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board Meeting in West Palm Beach.

Opossum in a tree in my mother's yard. (Photo Sandy Thurlow.)
Opossum in a tree in my parents’ yard. (Photo Sandy Thurlow.)
Opossum pretending it is dead in our ferns. (Photo JTL, 2011.)
Opossum pretending it is dead in our ferns. (Photo JTL, 2011.)
Opossum feigning death...(Public photo)
Opossum feigning death…(Public photo)

Although the front page of the SFWMD’s agenda read:

“The Governing Board may take official action at the is meeting on any item appearing on the agenda and on any item that is added to this agenda as a result of a change to the agenda approved by the presiding officer of the meeting pursuant to Section 120.525, Florida Statutes.”

—no action, not even a comment in response to the 80 public speakers was given at the end of “public comment.” The board remained quiet and simply “moved on…”.

Yes, approximately one hundred members of the public: housewives, grandmothers, activists, veterans, a River Kid, scientists, “River Warriors,” government employees, and politicians from many different counties, (but mostly from Martin and St Lucie Counties), made the long drive to come before the District, a board appointed by our governor…to speak, to exercise their right to speak, and to plead for the life of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and Calooshatchee by asking the board to exercise the right to purchase US Sugar option lands south of Lake Okeechobee, or at least to “allow discussion of this item on the agenda.”

This was not achieved….

Thankfully though, Board Chairman, Dan O’Keefe, did allow the public to speak, however, they were told if they clapped, or were disruptive they would be “removed by a deputy….” The public, for the most part, followed the rules, and was “allowed to” raise their hands to show support for each other….Mr O’Keefe empathetically noting hands raised….

It was excruciating…

As a public official myself, who has led and sat through many meetings with an angry public, my eyes actually teared up at one point. Watching the American process in action as the foot of authority stood on their neck…

The underdog in this scenario is certainly “Team David,” of the Indian River Lagoon whose river, the St Lucie, flows with the gushing putrid water of altered area canals and the redirected waters of Lake Okeechobee….

Perhaps the board felt the people weren’t “thankful enough” for all that has been done recently…

It is hard to be thankful when you’re dying….C-44 Reservoir monies and Senator Joe Negron’s Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin, yes, these state “wins” have been bonanzas of cash in one small area, our county…

We are thankful…

….unfortunately, so much water comes into the SLR/IRL system, the public is educated and knows that more land for storage is needed for all that water or “death is immanent.”

Yesterday, the river movement of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon chose not to play opossum, giving it their best fight…the government on the other hand, simply rolled over….

Even baby opossums "play opossum," it is genetically wired...(Public photo/real experience.)
Even baby opossums “play opossum,” it is genetically wired…(Public photo/real experience.)
In front of the SFWMD 3-12-15. (Photo JTL.)
In front of the SFWMD 3-12-15. (Photo JTL.)
SFWMD 3-12-15. (Photo JTL.)
SFWMD 3-12-15. (Photo JTL.)
Skeleton mermaid of the  SLR/IRL, Linda Curtis. (Photo 3-12-15.)
Skeleton mermaid of the SLR/IRL, Linda Curtiss. (Photo 3-12-15.)
80 members of the public signed up to speak before the governing board. (Photo 3-12-15.)
80 members of the public signed up to speak before the governing board. (Photo 3-12-15.)
People held signs before the SFWMD. (3-12-15, JTL)
People held homemade signs before the SFWMD. (3-12-15, JTL)
Hannah, a River Kid, from St Lucie County, read her "speech" to the Governing Board." She did receive positive reinforcement for her efforts from board Chair, Dan O'keefe. (Photo JTL)
Hannah, a River Kid, from St Lucie County, read her “speech” to the Governing Board.” She did receive positive reinforcement for her efforts from board Chair, Dan O’keefe. (Photo JTL)
Hannah's speech.
Hannah’s speech.
Sign
Sign: BUY THE LAND.
Sign
Sign, WATER IS LIFE.

BBC Special on how animals “play dead” to survive:(http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00z2mcb

Governor appointed, Governing Board SFWMD: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xweb%20about%20us/governing%20board)

SFWMD: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/sfwmdmain/home%20page)

Go here to watch the video of the SFWMD Governing Board meeting; it should be posted within 48 hours of 3-12-15: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xweb%20about%20us/gb%20application)

21 thoughts on ““Playing Dead” Like an Opossum–SFWMD, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

  1. Great article Jaqui…yes..it was unreal to hear all the public comments and realize that it was going in one ear and out the other for the bored looking board in charge of making the biggest decision for Floridas future….I don’t get it..so frustrating beyond belief…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Excellent, Jaqui, mostly. The SFWMD governing board did a perfect job of playing dead, perhaps impersonating our tortured St. Lucie River. My only objection to your otherwise helpful blog was your mentioning once again Sen. Joe Negron and his do-hothing history with the river.
    His so-called select hearing carefully kept the flowway option completely off the agenda and claimed wrongly that the flowway had been studied and rejected three times by officials. Truth is, it was never modeled and he’s been Big Sugar’s closest buddy in town, year after year. He’s taken close to a million from sugar.

    Now, the supposedly great UF study simply concluded that the state “should consider” the U.S. Sugar option purchase. No kidding. Haven’t we “considered” it quite enough.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I worked a job in a small country town. After work I visited a co-worker at his mothers house.In many small towns across America people have very little money so they learn to get by.His mom was telling him that a neighbor called and had killed a possum and waunted to know how to clean it. So she told her to cut around the legs and neck and tail—then you hold it by the tail and pull the skin off.She got a call back saying she pulled the skin off and the possum got up and ran off. I think the truth and freedom of speech will skin this possum—true story by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Brent…Your stories are getting better all the time. Thank you. I love opossums. When I lived in Pensacola some detested them thinking them rats. To me they are survivors, the only N. American marsupial, and cute. Just look scary if they bare their teeth. I know they eat them some places in the Bahamas. Not me! THANKS FOR AWESOME Fable. Very powerful and true, yes true!

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  5. Excellent analogy, I doubt if I could come up with anything as polite. I was only able to attend the demonstration yesterday, not the meeting. I believe though that everything that needed to be said was said, by the brave and courageous individuals who were there – Thank you.

    The problem is painfully disappointing, but becoming clearer each time we confront the obvious, or wait for another “study” to feed their Analysis/Paralysis Machine. We’ll get nothing more than patronizing lip service, smoke and mirrors or “playing possums”, because in this case, we continue to give the powers that be way too much responsibility to do what’s right.

    This is not the moral civil right’s issue of the 1960’s or the failed attempt to win an unwinnable war in Southeast Asia. We must stop believing that they alone are making the necessary decisions to alter the course and do what’s best to protect and save the waters when it’s really Big Sugar and Big Agriculture that are in control because they own South Florida.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I went to the lagoon today. I did not walk the shoreline but the one spot I stopped at had a crab trap float still in the water with about 3 foot of rope. Obviously recently cut off.Floatless crab trap will kill crabs for many years. So much abuse but still I can say with confidence that death is NOT iminanent unless people lay down like the possum. This job is almost over and I intend to come down and visit when it is done. I will bring my sand buckets and show you why you have no coral reefs—Menhadden—shrimp—clams—LIFE in your lagoon.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Ezra –I don’t even know how to judge what has been done to our lagoon. Since I was a kid and before the lagoon has been a safty net people could allways depend on to put a meal on the table for their familys. I do remember years ago that native Floridians acconted for a disporportional amount of the prison population.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Sometimes I think I work harder when I am Unemployed.. I am sure I have the right equipment for finding abandoned crab traps but developeing new techneks and skills will be the chalange. Humingbirds side scan sonar advertises it can give you a photograph like picture 200 foot on either side of the boat.I should be able to see a square crab trap.The task seems overwhelming because our lagoon is 2 miles wide. Hopefully with this equipment it will be doable.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I put sea shells up and down the public fishing pier in Indiatantic (3 months ago) This morning there was a spotted eagle ray swimming up and down exactly where I put the shells. She had a wingspan of over 6 foot and had to be an easy 300 pounds. It was obvious she was feeding on something on the shells I put in.I seen this same thing happen once before near sebastion inlet.It must have been a different world(environment) 100 years ago.I need to make a video documentary to get across better how people have destroyed a once magnificent environment and pushed many creatures that have been around millions of years into exstinction.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Brent this is an incredible story; I love the spotted eagle rays. When my husband asked me to marry him 2 jumped out of the ocean so I knew it was “right.” It is an amazing thing you have realized and I think the rest of us don’t understand. Yes. Document it.

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  10. I am allways glad to see couples who are happily married. I have never been married but I do have 2 children. One is 79 years old and the other is 83. I call them mom and dad,

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I was born in 57—I wish I was jokeing but as parents get older children have to be the supportive ones and it seems roles change. In Russia it is a law that you have to take care of your parents when they get old. My mom and dad are doing good for their age but they are fragil and getting older.

    Liked by 1 person

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