Awesome Possum!

By Derek Stoner, Family Program Coordinator and Linda Chambers, Associate Director Development and Marketing

During the depths of February’s 3-foot snowpack, we had a most curious visitor stop by to visit during the late afternoon.  Linda looked out her window at the snowy landscape and saw this fetching face staring up at her.   Linda recounts her experience:

“As I glanced out my office window, I noticed a sight that took me by surprise. Sitting approximately a foot from the window was the little creature pictured above. With feline movements and features, I found myself captivated with her.

Fascinated by how she was eating sunflower seeds and then grooming herself,  I stood transfixed by the sight. Not sure if I should be alarmed, I quickly sought out Derek who assured me that in this harsh weather, it was perfectly fine to see a nocturnal creature out at this time of day.”

Virginia Opossums are North America’s only native marsupial, giving birth to undeveloped young the size of bumblebees.  The babies live in the mother’s pouch for two months, nursing on one of her 13 nipples.  Upon emerging from the pouch, the babies hitch a ride on the mother’s back as she travels about in search of food.

True omnivores, possums will consume just about any plant or animal matter.  Using their excellent sense of smell (thus the long snout), they search for insects, worms, fruits and seeds, small mammals, and carrion like road-kill.   The possum has 50 teeth, the most of any mammal, and uses them to great advantage when chewing on meat. 

The possum’s pink, prehensile tail helps them balance when climbing in trees but is not used to hang from, despite the popular folklore.  Because of their slow manner of moving, possum’s employ a unique survival technique when confronted by a predator: playing dead!  Curling up in ball, the crafty possum tries to avoid being eaten by “playing possum.” 

We wish our special visitor the best as she goes about caring for her babies and raising the next generation of native marsupials.

References:   Kaufman, K.  Mammals of North America.  2004. Houghton Mifflin.

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