This little Opossum has been visiting under our house and through the yard at night for a couple weeks now. He doesn’t bother anyone or anything, as far as we have noticed. Though Kyle Dog wants to get him…whether or not he would know what to do with it after he got hold of it is another matter and we hope not to find out!
Opossums are native to North America, although they have been expanding their range. I (Addie) remember covering them briefly in one of my biology-ish classes in college. We talked about how they are somewhat limited in their range by winter temperatures. Their hairless ears and tail, but especially the ears, don’t do well in freezing winters, and at the northern edge of their range, sometimes those body bits show damage from the cold (I always felt bad for them! Poor guys, I guess it’s easier for birds to go south for the winter, TSA probably gets angry if an opossum tries to get on the overnight flight to Miami!). We learned last summer that opossum are useful critters for humans, as they eat ticks and other annoying insects. They also tend to be SUPER CUTE!!!
Does this guy think he is cute??? Lets ask him…
These critters are a marsupial. The ONLY ONE found in North America!!!
Addie is commandeering this post, as she did some quick internet scouring for more info on the critters, and here is some of what she absorbed, a bit mixed up with stuff she’s picked up through the years.
Opossums are mammals, but they have pouches. They give birth to live young, but they’re not as far along in the production process as, say, kittens or puppies. They’re pretty basic, and do a lot more growing while living in the pouch, where they get milk! (Hey, I grew up in Wisconsin, and I happen to be a dairy fan…). Marsupials are more well known as an Australia thing, but they can be found outside that continent/area. However, Kangaroos, Wombats, and the unfortunately presumed Thylacine (think wolf had a baby with a kangaroo but gave it stripes on the hips more like a zebra with a really big mouth…Way COOL and I wish they hadn’t gone the way of many other unfortunate life forms like the Passenger Pigeon-I really would love to see one…). Anyway…
There are more species of Opossums, but mostly north America gets the Virginia Opossum. Possum is a sort of shortened name for Opossum, and is more common in some areas of the country than others… I think its kind of easier and more fun to say… you sound less like you are about to burst into spontaneous poetry (“Oh, Possum, Dearest Opossum, Your hair is like a slightly grubby puffy snowball….. ” ok, I’m not good at poetry!).
Possums (Or Opossums) use a gait (the pattern and order and stuff about how their feet and legs move) called a “pace” at some speeds. If you’ve seen harness racing with horses, some of them use this gait (only a lot faster), and raccoons and bears also do this at times. Basically, a pace is moving the legs on one side in pairs. Left legs, then right legs, then left, it would be like swinging your left arm forward with your left leg, instead of left leg and right arm. I’m pretty sure camels walk in a pace, too.
Opossums aren’t big on family groups in general, and will roam around (“nomadic”) when a food source or great place to live loses it’s awesomeness, then set up temporary digs when they find a new one.
If I remember my school stuff correctly, if an adult opossum really tried the cartoon trick of hanging from it’s tail, it would probably ‘de-glove’ the tail… the skin would not do well, so don’t go asking us if we have gotten any pictures of it doing that! I think it’s cute with the skin where it should be.
They eat meat and plants, making them omnivores. Although it’s probably a safe bet they’re not likely to be getting prepackaged steaks and frozen vegetables in the store, so it’s more accurate to say they’ll eat fruit, insects and arachnids, slugs, worms, and stuff like that. (Ok, personally I consider meat anything that was essentially part of an animal–so I’d kinda say eggs are a ‘meat’ in this case, as well as fish, grasshoppers… sorry, I’m off topic!). I’m pretty sure they’ll snag an egg from my chickens if they find the eggs before I do (hmm… I’m down on egg production but the gals are molting hard right now, and the days are getting shorter and all those other ‘fall’ clues are telling their bodies to slow egg production so I’m not sure if this possum is snatching our eggs).
Lastly, in skimming through the other stuff about possums, here’s one of my favorite quotes from Wikipedia,
“Opossums are notoriously known for abducting stray cats and teaching them how to fight like other opossums. Typically, once the cat is returned to its family, they will utilize those skills to terrorize other neighborhood animals.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opossum visited October 23, 2017).
I’ve never heard of that, but it’s totally …. weird? Or goofy sounding? Sounds like an urban legend, but who knows. That was from the overall opossum article, which means maybe it’s not our opossum in North America that does it, but some in somewhere else?
These are my two main sources, besides from the random stuff I’ve picked up in bits through the years…
Here are a few pics of this little guy…