When I was a little kid, I used to visit my grandparents' house in semi-rural Wisconsin, where I live now. We frequently had various wild animals appearing near our house, simply because the forest was so close. For example, one Christmas morning, I looked out to see deer hoofprints in the snow on the deck. Naturally, I took this as proof of the existence of Santa Claus.

Now on to the possum-related story. One night, I was sitting in the bedroom with my grandpa, and we saw a possum outside of the sliding door, just sitting there. I, being approximately 5 years old, was completely enthralled. Imagine my surprise when, a few minutes later, my father declared that there was another possum at the front door. I dashed over and looked through the little window on the side. He was right, there was another one. I ran back through the house and returned again to the bedroom, and there was still a possum at that door, too.

Being a perceptive child, I recognized the possibility that this could just be an extremely fast possum which was running at an insane speed from the bedroom door to the front door. I raced back to the front door and stared intently at the "new" possum, making sure it didn't run away. "Grampa!!" I yelled. "Is the other possum still there?" "Yes, it is, sweetheart!" he responded.

Satisfied in my possum-counting skills, I proudly trooped back to the bedroom as my parents tried not to laugh.


I love my dog. (Say it like Jeff Foxworthy would. "I love m' dog.")

She's bred to kill critters. That's why her hair is so long around her eyes. She can go in those holes and drag 'em out without fear of being blinded. But it's got to be a critter that she knows she can take. I'm amazed at the discretion. A cat her size will be taunted, but never engaged. A raccoon will be totally ignored, even if it was eating my face while I slept. My dog would just look on and say, "You should have woken up. That's what I'd have done."

When it comes to a bigger dog, reason leaves the building and that dog will be attacked. If I wasn't there, I guess I'd have to buy less dog food the next day.

But a possum? You can forget it. She knows that a possum is for sure no excuses death meat.

The funny thing is, she gets the possum in her jaws and slings it from side to side and mauls it and jumps up and down on it and then decides it's good and dead. She comes in and takes what she thinks is a well-earned nap. The possum gets up and walks away.

I understand the survival instinct of "playing possum," but, for the life of me, I don't understand how they withstand all that abuse without seeming to have a scratch to show for it.

So, of course, it will be your local lactation consultant who will regale you with the tales of woe of the baby 'possum.

Opossums (Didelphis marsupials) are the only North American marsupial. Their young are born (after a 13 day gestation) still in an embryonic state and must crawl, unassisted, from the birth canal to the pouch. Once there, they find multiple nipples (up to 13) but frequently there are 16 - 20 babies. They remain attached to a nipple for 60 to 70 days.

Those neonates who don't find a nipple perish. There is no sharing among 'possum siblings. Also, momma 'possums have notoriously inefficient mammaries, and frequently only half of them are functional.

Pity the poor little 'possum who makes that great hike, latches on, and finds a dry teat.

The opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is a marsupial, and probably the oldest living mammal on earth, with fossils found dating back as far as 130 million years. It is very common in North America, favouring a habitat near wooded areas and streams or rivers. They tend to live in the abandoned nests of other creatures, or in old shacks or rock cavities, rather than building nests of their own.

opossums have an opposable thumb on each hind foot, one of the only creatures apart from humans to use this feature. This, together with a partially prehensile tail, gives it excellent tree-climbing abilities. opossums are famous in America for being the origin of the phrase "Playing possum", due to the fact that, when threatened and without an escape route, they will lie down, letting themselves go limp and their tongue loll out, and making it seem as if they are dead. This is caused by an autonomic nervous shock reaction, and will cause many predators to lose interest.

An adult opossum can be roughly the size of a domestic cat, and, being omnivores, they feed on almost anything, including insects, snails, birds, worms, berries and fruit. This diet means that opossums are often found scavenging through trash cans. There is no need to maintain habitats for opossums because they are so adaptable, but hunting and killing is regulated in the US by the Department of Natural Resources in order to keep the population from declining.

Despite the similarity of name, the opossum is not related to the Australian possum.


Sources:
http://www.inhs.uiuc.edu/dnr/fur/species/opossum.html
http://www.meerkat.org/mammals/opossum.html

O*pos"sum (?), n. [Of N. American Indian origin.] Zool.

Any American marsupial of the genera Didelphys and Chironectes. The common species of the United States is Didelphys Virginiana.

<-- called also possum -->

Several related species are found in South America. The water opossum of Brazil (Chironectes variegatus), which has the hind feet, webbed, is provided with a marsupial pouch and with cheek pouches. It is called also yapock.

Opossum mouse. Zool. See Flying mouse, under Flying. -- Opossum shrimp Zool., any schizopod crustacean of the genus Mysis and allied genera. See Schizopoda.

 

© Webster 1913.

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